Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Free childcare funding warning

Many nurseries and childminders said they do not receive enough funding to cover the cost of providing free childcare places

Nurseries and childminders are not receiving enough cash to cover the cost of providing the Government's free childcare places, campaigners have said.

Under the current system, all three and four-year-olds in England are entitled to 15 free hours of childcare a week, and there are plans to extend this to disadvantaged two-year-olds next year.

But a poll by the Pre-School Learning Alliance suggests that many nurseries and childminders do not believe they get enough money to meet the cost of the initiative.

Just one in 10 of the 550 questioned said that they receive adequate funding to cover the cost of providing free childcare places under the Government's free early years entitlement scheme.

The Alliance said this was a "significant decline" from their last poll in May, when more than a third (38%) thought they got sufficient funding.

The poll also found that the majority of childminders and nurseries polled said that they do not think they would be able to offer the same level of service if ministers consider changing staff to children ratios as a means of cutting the cost of childcare for parents.

Asked if they believed they could maintain their current quality of service if current staffing levels were reduced, 94% said definitely or probably not.

The Alliance said it had commissioned the survey to help inform its response to the Childcare Commission, which launched a consultation in the summer on how to improve the accessibility and affordability of childcare.

Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch said: "There is a glaring omission at the heart of the Childcare Commission consultation - the failure to consult on the level of funding of the free early years entitlement. By not addressing this fundamental issue, the Government continues to put the emphasis on making up the shortfall on parents and providers, even though earlier this year the National Audit Office highlighted that early years funding should be reviewed."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "Rising childcare costs are a huge issue for parents. It is clear the current system needs big improvements. We have set up the Childcare Commission to examine in detail what reforms need to be made. We are listening very closely to front-line professionals and to parents."

https://www.pre-school.org.uk/(Pre-School Learning Alliance)

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