30 Hour childcare “free” childcare offer: a look at the funding

The 30 hour childcare offer has now launched in England. The offer is designed to help hundreds of thousands of parents across the country benefit from free childcare, consequently allowing them to work. However, with the Telegraph recently stating that nurseries believe “the scheme is doomed” and the BBC reporting “education charities are warning of chaos” why is there so much concern? Here we explore what has been said around the levels of funding so far.

The government claims that the new 30 hours childcare offer saves families on average around £5,000 per year per child, and the scheme will now be backed by an extra £1 billion per year by 2020.

In a press release from Justine Greening on the Thursday 31st August she quoted Lesley Calvert, manager of Funfishers Pre-school in York, which was one of the 8 local authorities chosen as an early implementer:

“Delivering 30 hours has been a real success for us, and our parents have been able to go back to work or increase their hours without worrying about the cost of childcare.”

The total average hourly funding rate to local authorities is now £4.94, which according to the DFE, is a favourable comparison to the national average cost of providing childcare to 3 and 4 year olds which is £3.73 per hour, as stated in a report by Frontier Economics. However, it could be argued that the report covered a relatively small sample of providers: 166 settings were visited to collect cost data between April to December 2015 http://www.frontier-economics.com/documents/2017/01/seed-the-cost-and-funding-of-early-education.pdf

We know figures reported by the Free School Alliance detailed that of 1,400 nursery providers they consulted, 74% of respondents said their current funding from the government would not cover the cost of delivering the 30-hour free childcare places. They also raised concerns that the £4.94 that is given to local authorities is not being translated to the childcare providers, and according to their research, the average funding rate to given to providers is actually £4.27 per child with some providers receiving less that £3.60

On Thursday (31st August) the BBC reported that Karen Simpkin, who runs a nursery in Sheffield stated: “It costs me £7.50 an hour to look after a child in my nursery, but I’m only going to get £4.07 an hour from the government. I already know that I’m going to make a loss“.

In conclusion, where the offer can significantly benefit families’ lifestyle choices, it is clear that the levels of success will vary greatly across the from area to area. Ongoing and independent evaluation will be imperative to ensure providers are being appropriately funded and that parents are not facing increasing additional charges which could ultimately diminish then benefits of the offer.

We would love to hear your views and experiences of the 30 hour funding so far.