30 hours free childcare scheme has been underfunded

Nurseries say the scheme is underfunded

Parents may face more expensive childcare bills after the 30 hours free care scheme launches next month, an education charity has warned.

A survey by the Pre-school Learning Alliance (PLA) found 74 per cent of nurseries say the government has underfunded the scheme.

From September, working parents in England are entitled to 30 hours’ free care for children aged three to four.

Nursery funding

More than 200,000 parents across England are set to receive government help with their childcare costs from Friday.

However, some nursery providers warned the amount they are being paid by the government to deliver the care will not cover their costs.

The PLA survey received answers from 1,400 nursery providers in England.

  • Key findings include:
    74 per cent said their current funding from the government would not cover the cost of delivering the 30-hour free childcare places
  • 38 per cent do not believe their business would be sustainable in 12 months’ time
  • 52 per cent said they will increase charges for products such as children’s meals, nappies and trips
  • 42 per cent were not confident they would be offering enough free childcare places to meet the expected demand

Scheme “in chaos”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the PLA, said: “The launch of the 30-hours offer should have been a day of celebration. Instead, all we have is a policy in chaos.

“The government’s total refusal to tackle, or even acknowledge, the fundamental problem of early years underfunding has left providers across the country struggling to find ways of delivering the offer that won’t force them out of business.”

Previously parents in England have been entitled to 15 hours of free childcare per week, but during the 2015 general election the Conservatives promised to double this entitlement.

Access to childcare for families

Both the Welsh and Scottish governments have pledged to give parents access to 30 hours of free childcare in the coming years.

Nurseries will receive an average of £4.78 per hour from the government to provide the free childcare places.

Minister for Children and Families Robert Goodwill said: “We are determined to support as many families as possible with access to high-quality, affordable childcare, which is why we are investing a record £6bn every year by 2020 in childcare – more than ever before – and doubling the free childcare available to working parents to 30 hours a week, saving them up to £5,000 a year per child.

“This funding includes an additional £1bn per year by 2019-20 to pay for the free offers and to raise the national hourly rate to local authorities for three and four year olds to £4.94 per hour. This is far higher than the average hourly cost of providing childcare for three- and four-year-olds, which recent research has found to be £3.72.

“The 30-hour offer is already being delivered in several areas across the country, with over 15,000 children benefitting from a place.”