15 hours FREE childcare – the biggest con ever?

I recently learned that 15 hours free childcare per week actually translates to four hours a week for us. 

That’s despite the fact my daughter is in nursery for 10 hours each week. I was shocked to see what it really adds up to when you need part-time childcare.

And I’m so annoyed about it. I’m beyond annoyed actually, I feel like I’ve been lied to. Misled. Dragged up the garden path. Had a carrot dangled in front of me promising free childcare if I get a job and pay my taxes, only to discover it’s a sodding turnip. 

First up let me just clarify; yes I do realise it only counts during term-time. 

But the thing I didn’t realise is that most nurseries set a cap on the number of hours you can claim each day. This means you can only claim the 15 hours if your child is in nursery for two-and-a-half days a week. 

Let me break it down. 

My daughter is in nursery for 10 hours a week – two morning sessions of 8am to 1pm. That would cost us £307 a month.

I thought we could claim 10 hours funding per week in term time. I had hoped that would still buy us a healthy discount and, with any additional charges for lunch, bring the bill down to below £100 a month for her. 

But that’s not the case. Our bill for her comes in at £235 a month – for two mornings a week. That’s because we can only claim a maximum of six hours of funding per week. Then the term time only chop comes in and suddenly you’re only getting around four hours week. 

We get around £70 off a month. I don’t know about you, but in my book that doesn’t help to create work that works for parents. 

I know that we could choose a different childcare provider, one that applies the funding differently. However after doing a bit of reading, it looks like most nurseries follow this system. 

Yes I could opt for a childminder, but I’ve always preferred nursery care. That’s a personal preference for me and my family. 

I’ve ranted about childcare funding before, back when my kids were in nursery for four days a week. I said it then, and I’ll say it now, it’s not the nurseries’ fault. They’re not exactly rolling in it! The government just isn’t providing enough funding to cover the costs of the service they claim to be helping families with.

So I propose that government renames the scheme, stop sticking 15 and 30 in the headline. Or you could just, you know, fund it properly. 

A few things that are totally wrong with the early years funding: 

It’s never ever going to add up to 15 hours a week

That’s because even if you do sign up to five days a week of childcare or find a nursery that by some miracle doesn’t give a toss about being out of pocket, it’s still only valid in term time. 

That’s despite the fact that: A) School holidays are meaningless for early years, and B) No one gets 14 weeks holiday from work a year.

It’s putting early years providers out of business

Nearly 9,000 childcare providers have closed since 2016, according to government figures from November last year. 

Parents will still struggle to make the choice between work and staying at home

If you have more than one young child, it’s not going to make much financial sense to send both into childcare full-time, unless you’re earning a very decent wage each month. 

If we were to send our two kids to nursery full-time, the bill would be £2,383. Of course my eldest would be eligible for the 30 hours of funding – woohoo! But how much is that actually going to take off the bill? Sorry guys, I’m too knackered to do the maths right now, but by the time you’ve deducted the 14 weeks of holidays, it still puts the bill beyond what most people can afford. It’s a mortgage. 

I hate being lied to and misled. Just call it what it is. Early years funding. STOP putting 15 hours at the top of leaflets, official government website sections and in emails. It’s bollocks, so why do it?

I can’t falsely advertise a product to my readers, so why is the government allowed to promise us 15 hours of free childcare and then fail to deliver. Not only fail to deliver, but significantly fail to deliver. 

As for me, I’m happy with the nursery. The kids like it. So I’ll keep my two mornings a week, and try not the think about the fact that more than half of everything I earn in that time is going on childcare. 

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