Review the 30 hours “free” childcare

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I’m asking you to join me, a working mother of 2 young children in campaigning for a review of the new and complicated 30 hours “free” childcare scheme.

I’ve recently highlighted concerns that the scheme is being underfunded which has led to many nurseries and childminders either not offering funded hours, having to increase their fees to off-set underfunding, or charging for extras in order to offer funded hours in a viable way. There is also quite a difference in how much funding is being offered from different local authorities to childcare providers across the country. Under the scheme, childcare providers are not allowed to charge parents a top up i.e. ask parents to pay the difference between the funding being received and the actual cost of the provision.

I’ve recently shared my criticism of the government on this scheme and I’m very grateful this has been picked up and we are now discussing the implications and issues arising from the ill-thought out scheme. I now hope to do something positive to support all nurseries, childminders and families who would like to be able to afford to go to work.

This week I’ve read the Department for Education (DfE) have said “we are additional £1billion per year by 2019-20 to pay for the free offers and to raise the national hourly rate to local authorities for 3 and 4 year olds to £4.94”. I still don’t feel this solves immediate concerns on underfunding and raises many more questions. What will happen to childcare providers between now and then? What will happen to those parents who can’t benefit from affordable childcare because it’s not being offered to them? What will happen to the childcare providers not offering the scheme. if they subsequently see a reduction in parents choosing them? Will £4.94 (if it happens) really cover a childcare providers costs after the administrative charge has been deducted by their local authority?

Let’s not leave nurseries and childminders to stand alone in their battle, we all need this to work so we should all play a part in making our voices heard.

I’m asking for the scheme to be reviewed and for the ways to be considered which would make it work better, for example:

  1. Reduce the threshold which currently allows working parents with a household income of up to £200,000 to qualify for the scheme (up to £100,000 per annum from each parent), halving the total threshold seems reasonable for couples.
  2. Increase the funding and ensure consistency in how it’s distributed from local authorities.
  3.  Allow parents to pay a “top up” if needed.
  4. Or even consider if it would be more viable to provide funds directly to each qualifying parent, which they could only “cash in” with a registered childcare provision to the value of which we are supposed to benefiting from over the year – that way there’s no need for local authorities to be administering a scheme and taking a percentage of the funding. Hopefully it would also be a lot less hassle for childcare providers too! I could see this working through the tax-free childcare scheme as it wouldn't require the implementation of yet another scheme, but simply an increase in the amount of funds the government puts into the childcare accounts of qualifying parents. 

There seems to be so many ways we could improve this current situation, so please review it! Thanks @sarahdowzell