Daniel Zeichner, Member of Parliament for Cambridge, has today warned that underfunding by the government of its election pledge for free childcare is putting Cambridge nurseries at risk, and may leave some parents paying more.
The 30 hours free and tax-free childcare were flagship pledges made by the Conservative government in their 2015 manifesto. Applications by parents close today, with the scheme due to start on Monday September 4th, but the sustainability of the policy is being widely questioned by professionals and experts in the field. Daniel has been contacted by parents anxious about availability and the very future of some Cambridge nurseries.
A study by the Pre-School Learning Alliance published in April 2017 found that:
• 19% aren’t planning to offer the 30 hours scheme
• 37% aren't sure - to put this in context, 95% currently offer the 15 hour free entitlement
• 62% stated that the ‘entitlement rate’ for 17/18 is less than the hourly rate it cost to fund a childcare place
Daniel says: “I am becoming extremely worried about the consequences that this poorly implemented policy is going to have on nurseries and parents in the coming days and weeks."
“It was only last week that we heard of the difficulties parents were experiencing simply registering their children to receive childcare and the stress it was causing parents. Now it seems that some Cambridge nurseries won’t be able to offer the 30 hours, or will only be able to do so by massively increasing charges for extra hours, lifting the overall cost of provision for parents.
The government offering councils around £4 an hour to fund nurseries in Cambridge is not sufficient to cover the cost of the care they are providing. The risks are that we see fewer free childcare places available to those that need it most, a reduction in the quality of care provided to children and a rise in the strain for nurseries and parents providing childcare.”
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