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Parents are paying to access 'free childcare' offer, survey finds

By Rachel Lawler

 
Parents are paying additional charges in order to access the government’s 30-hours ‘free’ childcare scheme, according to a new survey conducted by the Alliance.
 
The Alliance surveyed 1662 nurseries, pre-schools and childminders in England about the offer. Only a third of those asked said they were offering the 30-hours ‘completely free’ without any additional charges to parents.
 
The survey also found that:
  • 28% of providers are not offering any 30-hours places totally free to parents
  • 37% of providers have introduced or increased charges for additional goods/services as a result of the 30-hours offer
  • 66% of providers are planning to change the way they deliver the 30-hours offer in the next 12 months, most commonly by increasing their fees and additional charges
Financial concerns
The survey also revealed that a significant number of childcare providers are concerned about their financial stability. A fifth (21%) of those asked said that they do not think their business will be sustainable in a year’s time, due to government underfunding.
 
55% of providers said that the funding they receive is less than both their usual hourly charge and the hourly cost of delivering a childcare place.
 
One provider said: “We are already suffering financially and we will only see a few pence raise to the funding per child. Our staffing costs already exceed funding, so with the next large living wage increase we may have to close our doors and thus the village will not have access to a community pre-school. We have already had to serve a redundancy.”
 
Further evidence of crisis
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “Respondents have laid out in black and white that the 30 hours policy is simply not working, with a continued lack of adequate funding leaving many with no option but to pass the funding shortfall on to parents. This has left parents to pay the price for government underfunding through often unexpected charges for things like nappies, food and trips, while the government continues to claim that it’s delivering on its promise of ‘free’ childcare.”
 
Neil added: “The government should not have needed more evidence of a childcare funding crisis – but here it is. If ministers don’t want to leave parents picking up their tab or to risk forcing even more providers to close, they need to recognise that the current situation is unsustainable and increase funding so it meets the cost of delivering places as a matter of urgency.”
 
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