Offer what you can afford
Alison* is a childminder who was involved in York's early implementation pilot of 30 hours' funded childcare.
30 hours works for me personally because the rate is a little more than my usual hourly rate. With this in mind I don’t have to charge for the “extras”. This has always been the unique selling point for my business and I am pleased that I am able to stand by this.
Based on the current hourly rate offered from the local authority there is a personal benefit to my business as I earn very slightly more per hour for funded hours versus my regular hours. However that small extra has to cover my time spent on claiming, submitting and explaining the 30 hours to parents etc., plus the twilight training I have accessed.
Obviously if things change then I will review my pricing strategy, after all I am running a business and cannot afford to lose money when a child reaches the age for entitlement to “free” childcare. But I am a firm believer in transparency. It is extremely important to be clear with parents about what you are charging and why.
Have confidence in your pricing and ensure you are able to explain your charges open and honestly. You also need to be prepared that a parent may not want to or be able to afford to pay the charges. Often parents assume the 30 hours funding is all year round, so you need to invest time by explaining the funding structure and how it works.
Typically, when a child reaches the age for entitlement they may have been with you for some time and you will have built up a solid relationship with the parents so that when it comes to discussing the charges they are happy anyway to accept them.
I have chosen not go down the route of taking on an assistant in order to increase the number of places I can offer. I prefer to take on a family from baby and see them through to when they go to pre-school, and work in partnership with local pre-schools, nurseries etc to continue that relationship.
Most families have been with me since their children were babies. We have good working relationships so I feel I would be able to have an open and honest discussion with them about it if there was any change to the funding rate. I ultimately just want the child to be receiving the best possible childcare, regardless of how it is paid for.
I would advise childminders to review hourly rates from the local authority versus their hourly rate and be honest with parents. If you genuinely cannot offer the full entitlement to parents, don’t feel you have to. It is important to be really clear about what hours you are offering and to not commit to scenarios that are not right for you. You can only try your best to offer the free entitlement, but not at a detriment to yourself.
Alison's top tips
- Be honest with the parents about the hourly rate of pay from your local authority and explain why you have to request that parents pay extra for meals and other services.
- Have confidence in your pricing and ensure you are able to explain your charges open and honestly.
- Don’t feel you have to offer funded hours but focus on your own business and what is right for you.
*Not her real name