The Hidden Charges of 30 Hours Free Childcare

The Hidden Charges of 30 Hours Free Childcare

30 Hour Free Childcare has been available from September 2017 to parents who receive any of the following benefits:

  • Tax credits
  • Universal Credit
  • Childcare vouchers or salary sacrifice schemes
  • Childcare grants and bursaries

The 30 hours childcare offer gives eligible parents an additional 570 hours of free childcare per year. However, a survey conducted by the Pre-School Alliance in January 2018 has found that early years childcare providers are feeling the pressure financially, and 30 hours hour free childcare may not be as free as promised.

The survey of 1,662 nurseries, pre-schools and childminders found that only one third of respondents were providing the 30 hours offer ‘completely free’ to parents without additional charges to parents. The survey also found that 28% of applicable providers were not offering any places completely free to parents; 37% of respondents have introduced additional or increased charges for additional goods and services such as meals; and 66% of respondents are planning to change their financial model to deliver the 30 hours offer in the next 12 months. It is thought this will most commonly be done via the increasing/introduction of additional charges.

Over a fifth of respondents, 21%, cited government underfunding as the cause of their business instability. The government has frozen childcare funding until 2020 with the commitment to an injection of £6 billion of funding during this period. Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the Alliance, highlighted that since the policy was announced the sector has increasingly cited the untenable nature of the scheme: This has left parents to pay the price for government underfunding through often unexpected charges for things like nappies, food and trips, while the government continues to claim that it’s delivering on its promise of ‘free’ childcare.”

Evidence from within the sector suggests the unsustainability of delivering the scheme at current funding levels. The question is how long will parents have to effectively subsidise one of the government’s flagship policy? 

The Benefits of #30Hours Free Childcare

The Benefits of #30Hours Free Childcare

Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds has previously expressed his belief that the attainment gap between children begins before they even start school.

30 hours childcare offer was universally implemented in September 2017. The scheme was introduced to help cover the costs of childcare for working families with 3 and 4 year olds – enabling parents to ‘double up’ on the amount of hours of free childcare available for them, granting parents 1140 hours of free childcare a year. It is estimated 30 hours childcare is saving families on average around £5,000 per year, per child.

The take up of the 30 hours free childcare can be used across any Ofsted registered day nursery, pre-school/playgroup, registered childminder or Children’s Centre nursery.

The childcare offer has already helped many families, including lone parent families, to find or maintain employment, with the peace of mind of knowing that their child is being educated in a nursery or a similar early years provision.

The childcare offer’s back to work agenda is proving beneficial to many families and single parents. The Department for Education recently visited a Children’s Centre-based nursery in Wigan where parents discussed how the offer has had a positive impact for them. One single parent mother whose son attends the nursery, stated how the 30 hours childcare offer has enabled her to go back to working as a nurse, which she did not believe she would have been able to do without access to it. Other parents also discussed the benefits of the 30 hours childcare offer which had allowed for them to return to work and accrue more hours, knowing their child is being educated.

The 30 hours scheme has had its challenges. For example, some childcare providers have evidently not received requisite funding to cover the costs of a place. In some such instances, provisions have charged parents an additional ‘top-up’ to cover the exact costs. In response to these challenges, the DfE has established the Delivery Support Fund which made £8,650,000 available for bids from Local Authorities to help support with the delivery of their local 30 hours childcare offer. Furthermore, The government have also committed an additional £1 billion per year by 2020, to help support the flagship programme.

30 hours free childcare- latest statistics on eligibility codes issued and validated

30 hours free childcare- latest statistics on eligibility codes issued and validated

The Department for Education have released the latest statistics on the number of 30 hours free childcare codes issued and validated for the Spring 2018 term following a pledge to provide transparency around the national roll out of this entitlement.

Parents apply and have their eligibility checked for 30 hours free childcare via the Childcare Service.

If a parent is found to be eligible, they will be given a code which they can then take to their chosen childcare provider. The childcare providers or local authorities then validate these codes via the Eligibility Checking System.

To access the childcare offer parents must have generated a code and this code must then be validated.

The latest figures realised show;

  • In January 2018; 329,505 eligibility codes were issued
  • In February 2018; 303,883 were validated

meaning that 92% of all codes have been validated to use the 30 hour childcare offer. This is marginally down (by 2%) from the Autumn 2017 term when there were an estimated 202,783 children in a 30 hours place. However, there has been a significant increase for the number of codes issued, which has surpassed the DfE’s target of 310,000 codes.

The DfE has also published a detailed local authority 30 hours breakdown.

There were 12 local authorities in February 2018, where every eligibility code for Spring 2018 has been validated: Solihull, Camden, Bath and North East Somerset, Portsmouth, Trafford, Brighton and Hove, Gateshead, Cheshire East, City of London, Staffordshire, East Riding of Yorkshire, Warrington.

The average validation rates in London are the lowest, with an average of 86% across all London authorities.

Local authorities and providers are encouraged to remind parents to re-validate their codes and confirm their eligibility in good time.

Nadhim Zahawi’s responsibilities as Under-Secretary of State for Education are announced

Nadhim Zahawi’s responsibilities as Under-Secretary of State for Education are announced

The new years’ cabinet reshuffle led to numerous ministerial changes at the Department for Education, including the appointment of Nadhim Zahawi as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families.

Earlier this week, the website: GOV.UK stated that the minister’s responsibilities will include:

  • children’s social care including child protection, children in care, adoption, care leavers, social work, local authority performance and family law
  • special educational needs including high needs funding
  • education policy in response to the race disparity audit
  • safeguarding in schools
  • disadvantaged pupils – including pupil premium and pupil premium plus
  • school sport, healthy pupils and school food, including free school meals
  • early years policy including inspection, regulation and literacy and numeracy
  • childcare policy, inspection and regulation
  • delivery of 30 hours free childcare offer
  • social mobility including opportunity areas

Shortly following the announcement of his ministerial roles, Nadhim Zahawi stated proposals that the government will take forward as law, following two public consultations on disadvantage support. The government will introduce a net earnings threshold of £7,400 per annum for free school meals eligibility under universal credit, which came into effect from 1st April 2017. Also in 2017, 1.1 million of the most disadvantaged children were eligible to claim a free school meal. It is predicted that by 2022, 50,000 more children will be able to claim a free school meal under the new benefits system. In addition, the government are introducing a net earnings threshold of £15,400 per annum under Universal Credit for eligibility for the 15-hour free early education entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds. This will also take effect from 1st April 2018 and it is estimated that by 2023, 7,000 more children will benefit from the entitlement. Any household earning below the aforementioned thresholds and claiming Universal Credit, will be eligible to claim these benefits for their children.

Nadhim Zahawi said “It is right that we must continue to offer the most disadvantaged young people additional help and I am pleased that, following public consultations, we can extend free school meals and the free early education entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds.”

At such a crucial time for education policy, it is encouraging that Nadhim Zahawi has already taken steps to ensure that no matter where children live or what there background is, they all have the opportunity to make the most of their lives.

Funding for 30 hours: The Delivery Support Fund

Funding for 30 hours: The Delivery Support Fund

Has your Local Authority been successful? – decisions on applications to be announced this February

Local Authorities and providers have invested a significant amount of time and effort to deliver the 30 hours childcare offer, which launched universally in September 2017.

Therefore, to further support LAs with the first year of delivery, and to enable them to support their providers to deliver sufficient 30 hours places, the Department for Education (DfE) established the Delivery Support Fund (DSF). The DfE made the DSF available to LAs via a bid round. £8,650,000 is available for LAs as part of this bid round. This will be distributed between LAs that applied.

All local authorities were able to apply for the funding, using an application form within which LAs were able to request funding for one project or multiple projects.

 For example; an LA may have applied for funds to

·         support additional members of staff and funds to support local sufficiency mapping


·         help improve access and secure sufficient quality 30 hours provision to support children with SEND and set up a contract with an external consultant to give providers support and advice to review their business models and explore new delivery models


·         fund small scale capital funding and funds to improve communications to parents


Joint projects between LAs were also to be accepted as part of an application, but needed to be submitted by one lead LA.

The amount granted to each Local Authority will be dependent on the application form on how the Local Authority’s need is deemed in terms of:

 a) the challenges that it faces in delivering the 30 hours.

 b) how well the application evidences how it will deliver its projects to deliver sufficient 30 hour places.

It is expected that LAs should spend all the funding by 31st August 2018.

The Treasury Committee has launched a new inquiry into childcare policy and its influence on the economy – including the impact of the 30 hour childcare offer

The Treasury Committee has launched a new inquiry into childcare policy and its influence on the economy – including the impact of the 30 hour childcare offer

The 30 hour childcare offer is coming under review as part of the treasury select committees inquiry to examine whether recent childcare schemes are helping parents in the labour market and benefiting the economy.

The former Education Sectary Nicky Morgan, who now chairs the Treasury Select Committee, helped launch the inquiry which includes looking at whether the government has provided sufficient funding for the 30 hour offer for working parents.

The inquiry remit is to scrutinise the overall package of Government initiatives that aim to make childcare affordable, which have included the Tax free childcare scheme, Childcare Vouchers, and the Childcare element of Universal Credit.

The review will also seek to explore how the Tax Free Childcare scheme interacts with the 30 hour scheme.

Commenting on the launch of the inquiry, Rt Hon. Nicky Morgan MP, Chair of the Treasury Committee, said:

“There had been reports of problems with the HMRC-run Childcare Service website, which has been a cause for concern. We’ll examine the impact of these failures on the take-up of Government initiatives that aim to make childcare affordable. ”

“The Treasury Committee will look at how it delivers benefits to the economy and supports labour productivity and participation. We’ll also look at the effectiveness of Government initiatives at making childcare accessible and affordable.”

Other issues covered will be to look at future measures the Government could implement to ensure that the childcare market provides an affordable and high-quality offer that supports parental employment; for example, should further childcare support be provided to parents on apprenticeships or other training schemes?

The first evidence session is to take place on 31 January when MPs will question Chief Secretary to the Treasury Elizabeth Truss, who has responsibility for childcare policy.

If you would like to see in more detail the remit of the inquiry you can do so by following the link:

House of Commons Debate on the 30 Hours childcare offer this Thursday

House of Commons Debate on the 30 Hours childcare offer this Thursday

A House of Commons debate on the ‘effect of the 30 hours’ is to take place on Thursday 12 October.

With the 30 hours childcare offer now in its second month of running, Labour MP for High Peak Ruth George has invited the children and families minister Robert Goodwill to attend a debate that she states will bring the issues faced in High Peak to a “national level’ discussing the “free, but underfunded childcare” scheme.

“It will be easy for the Government to think they have ‘got away with’ the underfunding of the additional hours – childminders, those running nurseries and working parents of small children are generally busier than most of the population – so less likely to complain.” Ms George has said. She sees the debate as a chance to ‘ensure that proper scrutiny is put in place, and the government are held to account for their funding levels and the impact it will have’

Childcare providers and parents are being urged to get in contact with their local MPs to request that they attend the debate and raise any concerns or questions which could be discussed. They can also email Ms George at

More can be read by following the link below on why Ruth George is holding the debate;

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

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

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.

No-nonsense. Does the UK prize discipline over creativity in education?

The BBC reporting on the Pew Research Centre’s research on public attitudes towards education in 19 countries, describes the UK’s ‘no-nonsense’ approach to education as being akin to countries such as South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, where the expectation is that schools should get on with teaching the basics. But is this what the research says?

The highlight of the research surrounds what some see as the dichotomy between discipline and creativity. The Pew survey asked the following question:

It is more important that the schools in our country teach students…

A)      Basic academic skills and encourage discipline

B)      To be creative and think independently

Of the 19 countries surveyed, the respondents in ‘advanced’ countries were more likely to come down on the side of creativity. Spain, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden were the top scorers at the creativity end of the spectrum.  The UK, in contrast, saw 51% of respondents prioritising discipline and the basics. This sees the UK being comparable with ‘developing’ countries including Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria.

Other findings from the research suggest that in most advanced economies education is an ideological issue, with the ‘left’ more likely to prioritise creativity and independent thinking. The US saw the biggest difference between left and right, with 67% and 34% respectively prioritising creativity. The UK was next with 60% of the left and 29% of the right prioritising creativity. Coupled with this is the finding that the younger generation finds creativity and independent thinking in schools to be more important.

Taking the research at face value, the answer to the initial question is ‘Yes’. However, the question was based on a ranking of importance and was not ‘either/or’. Those that prioritise creativity in schools are unlikely to be calling for a total absence of discipline; and those prioritising the basics and discipline are unlikely to be calling for a ban on independent thought. To infer anything different from the outcomes of the research is a bit of a stretch.

Whether it’s what we see in the ‘strictest school in Britain’ as reported in The Guardian, Michaela Community School in Brent, or in the ‘democratic’ schooling of Summerhill boarding school in Suffolk, most people would say that some discipline is essential for learning to flourish. The real question should perhaps be: which do you think should be prioritised in the UK education system, creativity, or discipline and basic academic skill?

For the full research see here:

The deadline for working parents to claim their 30 hours funded childcare is looming and is with us on Thursday 31st August.

The deadline for working parents to claim their 30 hours funded childcare is looming and is with us on Thursday 31st August.

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.”

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.