Government must heed “free” childcare warnings

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Government must heed warnings on “free” childcare funding expansion

Prospect has today (Wednesday 15 June) welcomed a report by the Public Accounts Committee highlighting the problems facing the government’s expansion of its “free” childcare policy to 30 hours.



Nursery worker and two children

“The PAC report confirms fears already raised by our members working in early years,” said Prospect negotiator Claire Dent. “It also directly contradicts childcare minister Sam Gyimah’s view that the concerns of parents and providers are based on a ‘myth’.

“We agree with PAC’s warning that there may not be enough providers willing to offer the additional 15 hours of childcare the government wants to introduce 2017. It has also rightly highlighted the lack of plans to ensure that staff are qualified.

“While welcoming the take-up of the current free 15 hours offer for three and four-year olds, PAC’s report also unpicks some of the issues that nursery providers and parents are already encountering.

“Because the funding they receive is too low, many providers are already reducing the number of free places available to children or asking parents to top up with extra paid-for hours.

“Without adequate funding – and a proper system of accountability to ensure that local authorities deliver any new government money directly to providers – expanding the scheme to 30 hours will fail the most disadvantaged children it is supposed to be helping, as raised recently by the Centre Forum.”

Research by the National Day Nurseries Association has also shown that only 45% of nurseries are likely to get involved in the expansion to 30 hours because they simply can’t afford it.

Dent added: “Without proper funding, nurseries will also be unable to pay the national living wage, when evidence shows that better qualified staff provide higher quality childcare and better outcomes for children.

“We are also still waiting for government to consult on an early years national funding formula. Without knowing the figures, we can only conclude that doubling the number of free hours to each child will dramatically reduce the number of places available.

“We urge the government to pay attention to this report and turn rhetoric into reality by making the sums add up.”

In members’ magazine EducationEye earlier this year, nursery owner Alexandra Skvortsov, of Prospect’s early years national committee, also slated government advice to make its proposals workable by sticking to “minimum staffing ratios”. Download a PDF of her article.


 

More information

Claire Dent:  01924 207890 (w); 07811 146971 (m); claire.dent@prospect.org.uk

Alexandra Skvortsov: 07986 346896 (m) a.skvortsov@greetlandpdn.co.uk

Penny Vevers, communications officer: 020 7902 6606 (w); penny.vevers@prospect.org.uk