30 hours free childcare causing huge challenges for nurseries

The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has warned that the impact of the 30 hours of funded childcare policy is causing huge challenges for nurseries, including rising business costs, growing deficits and additional administration.

With shortfalls in government funding having more than doubled over the past year, almost half of the respondents to NDNA’s annual nursery survey for England for 2018 charge parents up to £10 per day to make up the shortfall to provide these ‘free’ childcare places. This is because the deficit between the cost of delivery and funding paid via local authorities has grown to an average of £2,166 per year per child, with nurseries passing this cost on to parents.

Rolled out in September 2017, the NDNA says that the 30 funded hours policy has also created a huge administrative burden, with nurseries losing at least one staffing day each week to deal with the new system and help parents register.

Purnima Tanuku, NDNA chief executive, said: “It’s about time government woke up to the full cost of delivering their 30 hours ‘free’ childcare policy. Nurseries are forced to alter the way they deliver funded hours, by restricting the amount of places they offer, holding back from hiring highly qualified staff or charging parents for extras to make up the funding shortfall. Neither parents nor nurseries want this to happen.

“Doubling the amount of funded childcare from 15 hours to 30 has more than doubled nurseries’ average annual shortfall which, coupled with late payments from local authorities, is seriously undermining their cash flows. Adding to these difficulties, nurseries are spending huge amounts of time supporting parents to understand the new system and reconciling payments. This is time which nursery staff should be spending with the children.

“This is a terrible state of affairs in a sector which should be thriving as more children than ever before take up their funded places. By not adequately funding this policy, government is putting children’s life chances at risk. The government must act now. Echoing the Treasury Select Committee’s recommendations to government earlier this year, government, via local authorities, must pay providers the going rate which keeps pace with rising wages and other business costs. Let nurseries focus on what they do best, providing high quality learning experiences for children.”

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