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Lords amend Childcare Bill to reflect providers’ funding concerns

Yesterday the House of Lords passed an amendment to the Childcare Bill which requires the Education Secretary to establish a comprehensive and sustainable funding solution, taking into account the findings of the funding review, before the Bill becomes law.

The Childcare Bill seeks to double the Early Years Education (EYE) entitlement from 15 to 30 hours for 3- and 4-year olds of working parents. The Government’s funding review is due to report in late November. The amendment was tabled by Labour peer Baroness Jones of Whitchurch and supported by a number of Liberal Democrat and Crossbench peers.

PACEY has been meeting regularly with government ministers, civil servants, MPs and peers since the Childcare Bill and funding review were announced to ensure our members’ views are heard. Last Friday, 20 PACEY members from all over England travelled to the Department for Education to meet with the funding review team to discuss the true cost of providing high quality childcare and how the Childcare Bill might affect them.

During the debate, the minister also pledged that there were no plans to change the existing ratios in order to deliver the new entitlement and that the Government would work collaboratively with the sector in 2016 to ‘review progression routes within the sector to determine what more can be done to enable good quality staff to maximise their potential and forge a successful career in early years.’

In total three Opposition-backed amendments were successful during the Lords’ debate.  A second amendment, tabled by the Liberal Democrats, seeks to guarantee access to flexible childcare, for example outside normal office hours and during school holidays. The final Labour amendment requires all regulations made under the Bill to be formally approved by both Houses of Parliament before it becomes law.

The Childcare Bill will be debated once more in the Lords on 26 October and then will move on to the Commons, where it will be scrutinised for a number of weeks. 

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), said, "We support Baroness Jones’ amendment on the funding review. The Government will not be able to deliver on its promise to double the Early Years Education (EYE) entitlement unless the current funding shortfall is properly addressed.

"We would also like to see the Government commit to a regular assessment of childcare provider finances, in the same vein as the existing childcare and early years providers survey. Childcare providers cannot be supported to grow and improve the quality of their services without an understanding of their financial position and sustainability.

"PACEY members are concerned not just about the level of funding, but also about a range of additional barriers many of them face in delivering the free entitlement; including inflexible payment procedures and red tape. For many childminders, a perceived lack of demand and the ban on related children are also significant barriers."