An influential cross-party group of MPs in the House of Commons Treasury Committee has today published a unanimously-agreed report on childcare which makes a series of recommendations to the Government. PACEY submitted evidence to this inquiry, focusing its submission on 30 hours funding constraints, cash-flow concerns, late payments, excessive paperwork, red tape and continuous administrative errors plaguing childcare providers and childminders in particular.
Recommendations made to the Government
- Remove age restrictions on childcare support for parents in training to improve productivity
- Keep childcare voucher scheme open until winners and losers of discontinuing it are known
- Pay a higher hourly rate to local authorities for 30-hours free childcare scheme
- Improve awareness of Tax-Free Childcare scheme and quality of website
- A key objective of the government policies including 15 and 30-hour childcare and Tax-Free Childcare is to improve productivity and allow parents to return to work however the impact on the UK's overall productivity performance is uncertain and more research is to be done.
- Parents may need to retrain to return to work. As it stands, parents over 20 are excluded from receiving proper childcare support.
- The Government’s 11th hour decision to postpone the discontinuation of the childcare voucher scheme by six months is no way to manage childcare policy.
- The Government’s statement that it provides £4.94 per hour to fund 30-hours free childcare is misleading as it excludes the proportion retained by local authorities, and includes money for some specific schemes (e.g. Early Years Pupil Premium).
- The report noted that as a result of a shortfall in funding providers have started:
- Restricting the times at which parents can claim 30 hours, reducing provision flexibility.
- Cutting back on higher-qualified staff and increasing child-to-staff ratios, reducing provision quality
- Charging for services that were previously free (such as food and activities) and increasing charges for children who aren’t eligible (e.g. under threes). As a result, providers in higher income areas will be able to better mitigate funding shortfalls than those in more deprived areas.
- If the Government wants to avoid these consequences, it should pay a higher hourly rate to providers that reflects their current costs, update this rate annually, and also ensure that all the money provided to local authorities is passed on to childcare providers.
- The consistent failure of the Tax-Free Childcare website, which has caused stress and inconvenience to thousands, is unacceptable.
Liz Bayram, Chief Executive at the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) comments:
"PACEY is pleased the Treasury Committee has recognised the ongoing challenges of delivering 30 hours of funded early education. Parents and providers both want children to benefit from high quality early education, but the low funding rates, delayed payments and red tape that we highlighted in our submission are all preventing this from happening. Some local authorities are doing a great job of working with providers to offer sustainable places to local families, but many are not. We hope the Committee’s recommendations will be taken seriously by government. They are key to ensuring government- funded early education is a success in every local area."