From Friday 1st September working parents in England will be entitled to an additional 15 hours of childcare on top of the current 15 universal hours.
With reports suggesting that there are still thousands of places for the 30 hours that have still not been claimed, arguably, the scheme could have an unsteady start. With the deadline on our doorstep we look back on what’s been said so far.
In July 2017, the DfE published their evaluation report on the outcomes experienced by the eight local authorities that were chosen in September 2016 as early implementers and who began the delivery to around 5,000 children. The report concluded that were no specific reasons why 30 hours free childcare would not be a success, with a high proportion of providers willing and able to deliver the extended hours without financial implications being a substantial barrier. The report also suggested that parents where keen to take up the extended hours. However, 55% of those parents who claimed the extended hours, across the eight early implementer authorities, reported additional charges (compared to 14% of providers reporting they asked or extra money).
Another key recommendation from the evaluation was the need for local authorities to positively promote the offer. However, in contrast, in summer 2017 there have been news headlines claiming the scheme is ‘doomed’ and that it ‘just can’t work.’ These headlines, in part, have followed a survey undertaken by the Free School Alliance in early 2017, that concluded half of the (approximately) 1,500 daycare providers who responded to their survey believed there was ‘a risk they could close as a result of the 30 hours childcare scheme’.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance reacted to a report, by Child Poverty Action Group, on the cost of raising a child, by saying; “indeed, parents may well find themselves out of pocket as a result of the 30 hours scheme, as childcare providers are forced to increase costs elsewhere to make up the shortfall in government funding of the offer.” https://www.pre-school.org.uk/news/2017/08/cost-raising-child-rises-faster-funding-levels
Finally, the website that parents need to access to register to access the 30 hours offer has evidently experienced technical problems. Nicky Morgan chairman of the Treasury select committee, has written to HMRC, sharing her concerns over the delays and demanded answers and it has since been confirmed that a compensation scheme has been set up for parents who were unable to apply due to technical glitches.
At (Coda Consultants/PEY) we have worked with a number of local authorities to help support them in the planning stages of the 30 hour delivery, and have a comprehensive understanding of both the concerns but also the excitement around the delivery of scheme. We wish you all luck, both parents and providers, in the smooth delivery in September and will be ready to support early evaluations when needed.