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Government responds to 30 hour consultation

The government has published its response to the consultation on the delivery model for the 30 hour free childcare scheme in England. The consultation asked for views on aspects of how the 30 hours policy will be delivered including:

  • how places might be delivered more flexibly; 
  • provision for children with special education needs and disabilities; 
  • the role and responsibilities of local authorities in securing places;
  • information about childcare for parents, and
  • the ‘grace period’ for parents

A total of 1,314 responses were received. 47 % of responses were from the private / voluntary providers and 13 % were from childminders. You can read PACEY’s response to the consultation here.

As a result of the consultation, one of the main changes is to extend the period that parents can access the free funded hours between 6am – 8pm (increased from between 7am and 7pm). The minimum session length has also been removed and the maximum session length remains unchanged at 10 hours. Further changes include limiting the number, to two, of different sites at which children can take up their free entitlement in one day. It also states that local authorities are expected to work with childcare providers to enable, as far as possible, parents to ‘stretch’ their free childcare over the full year where that is what they wish.

PACEY has consistently argued for more prompt and regular payment of the EYE entitlement to help childminders offer free funded hours. Research has found that the payment system is the second biggest disincentive to childminders providing funding places, after the low hourly rate.

It is therefore very welcome news to see our points reflected in the consultation response. The report states that the government will:

“amend statutory guidance to set a clear expectation that by September 2018 childminders should be paid monthly; and all other providers should also be paid monthly unless they request an alternative payment model. This will ensure that cash flow does not prevent smaller providers, including childminders, from offering the extended entitlement.”

The report also describes significant concern from respondents about “the level of funding for the extended entitlement and concerns about the impact on provider sustainability”. The government consulted on proposals to change the way free early years education is funded over the summer and the government’s response to this is expected in due course. You can read PACEY’s consultation response to the proposal new funding formula here.

Responding to publication of the government’s consultation response, Liz Bayram, Chief Exec, PACEY comments:

“It is welcome news that the government has listened to our concerns about the need to ensure that childminders are paid promptly for the free funded hours. For small businesses operating on low profit margins, this is vital to help avoid serious cash flow problems.

“However, we recognise that childminders still face other major barriers to delivering the early years entitlement. This includes the two-tier funding system which, unlike nurseries, means that the rate for delivering free hours to 2 year olds drops once that child reaches the age of 3 and 4 and the fact that they still cannot claim the free entitlement for any related children they care for. We will continue to raise these issues with government as well as the need for much improved business support to settings to help them build sustainable businesses for the future – particularly when most local authorities simply don’t have the capacity to do this anymore.

“Ultimately, the government’s vision of 30 hours free childcare is only achievable if providers receive a fair fee for funded hours. We await publication of the response to the early years funding consultation as an opportunity to show that the government has listened to the sector’s growing concerns.”