Delivering 30 hours sustainably
Emma is a childminder in England and was one of the providers involved in the early implementation pilot of 30 hours' funding in York. She talks about how she has been able to offer 30 hours as part of her wider business plan.
I aim to be as flexible as possible in delivering the 30 hours funding and am happy to offer the whole 30 hours where places allow. Currently I have two children using the funding. Both use their full entitlement, but not all of their 30 hours is taken with me, the children also attend a nursery and a preschool.
I work closely with the preschool setting to facilitate transitions. Personally I wanted to maintain a small-scale, family feel to my setting, so have chosen not to expand by taking on an assistant and increase places I can offer.
I am a member of the local Early Years Partnership and together we looked at how we could respond to the demand for places within our network of childminders, preschools and nurseries. We do this flexibly by offering varying session lengths, wrap around care, full day care, flexible hours, flexible working/shift patterns, etc. This partnership working has been key since the introduction of the 30 hours funding in York.
I haven’t placed any restrictions on the number of hours that I am able to offer, but as a childminder I have a limited number of places available in the first place. I neither prioritise funded children nor privately financed children, but instead try to offer the most flexible and fairest approach I can on a family by family basis, be that term time or stretched hours.
Offering the funded hours has meant that a lot of families who have been with me since their children were babies have been able to stay with me. If I hadn’t offered the funded hours I imagine that a lot of families would have been forced to take their entitlement elsewhere and I would have lost some of my existing business.
30 hours can be confusing, especially when there are a number of providers involved. I ensure that my invoicing is very clear so that parents can see how many funded hours they are using each month, with a table at the bottom of the invoice for them to track the total hours already used and the total amount of hours left to use that year. I also include funded hours they are using at other settings. By using a transparent approach like this, parents don’t get a shock towards the end of the academic year when their term-time hours have ‘run out’.
I only charge for extra hours over and above the funded hours which my children attend for, but it is common practice in other settings within our partnership to charge for meals or invite parents to provide a packed lunch or snacks for their child.
Our local authority is aiming to provide a flexible approach to suit providers, currently they pay the majority of funding at the beginning of the term, and the remainder at the end, but they are considering changing to monthly payments. The current system has worked for me, mainly because of the grace period introduced - I have the security of knowing if a parent loses their job, my income is protected for longer than it would be under a standard private contract that I have with a family.
Emma's top tips:
- Partnership working is key to delivering 30 hours – don’t dismiss the funding if you don’t have capacity to offer the full amount instead considering partnering with other providers
- Ensure invoicing is clear and transparent so that parents can track their hours
- Don't forget you are able to charge for meals and extras, or invite parents to bring a packed lunch and snacks, to help with funding. Explain to parents why you need to charge - most will understand, particularly when your local authority rate doesn't match your private rate!