Some completely understand the childcare providers need to cover their costs, while others believe it’s unfair it falls on them to pay.
Their reactions come after an online survey of over 1,600 childcare providers in England, conducted by the Pre-school Learning Alliance, found only 35% of providers are delivering 30 hours places ‘completely free’.
And 37% of providers have introduced or increased charges for additional goods/services - such as meals and snacks - as a result of the 30 hour offer.
In the survey, 66% of providers said they plan to make changes to how they offer the 30 hours over the next 12 months by increasing fees and charges.
And just over a third of providers were uncertain whether or not they will be offering 30 hours places in a year’s time.
“With the majority of providers forced to limit the number of genuinely ‘free’ childcare places on offer, and many set to increase additional charges for funded hours in the next year, it’s clear from these findings that the government’s flagship childcare policy is failing both providers and parents,” said Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance.
Leitch said the respondents have “laid out in black and white” that the 30 hours policy is “simply not working”, with a continued lack of adequate funding leaving many with no option but to pass the funding shortfall on to parents.
One of the comments from
A childcare provider involved int the survey commented: “We’ve had to increase fees from January 2018 and will be increasing again in April due to the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage.”
Another said: “We have implemented a registration fee to cover costs of daily diaries/name cards/learning journals/name cards/development records and to help with costs of consumables.”
And another provider commented: “It does not currently seem financially sustainable. If the funding rate does not increase, the only way we can still offer the places is by charging for extras a.k.a charging for the gap in underfunding.”
Jane Fear, 47, from Staffordshire is a childminder. She has a running cost of £4.25 per child and receives £3.85 per child from her local council for the free 30 hours.
“I make a loss on every funded hour that I provide,” she told HuffPost UK. “Obviously I can’t do this so my parents pay an additional charge (between £2.50-£3.50 per day depending on contracts) to cover my loss which is disguised as a charge for snacks, food, pick up and drop offs, craft items.
“All of my parents know that I make this charge and why. They all know that this is because the local authority rate doesn’t cover my hourly rate.
“I chose to do it this way and not pass on the loss to non-funded children because parents are benefitting massively from 30 hours and have been more than happy with the huge reductions in their monthly bills.”
One mum, Danielle Sinclair, didn’t mind paying the extra money. She wrote on Facebook: “Yes, we are being charged extra for meals at our nursery.
“But if it means they can still go though and enjoy the surroundings of nursery and make friends, then I’m happy to pay it.”
Amanda Wilson, 32, from West Yorkshire said she was frustrated when she had to pay extra at her daughter’s nursery than those children who weren’t receiving funded childcare.
She explained the normal charge for meals for those who pay for the childcare was £1.50 per meal, however those who used government-funded hours had to pay £2.50 per meal.
“I was annoyed,” she told HuffPost UK. “I had to pay more for meals than other parents and only lunch was a hot meal. Afternoon tea was only crackers and cheese or finger sandwiches.”
Whether parents are happy or not with the charges, this is an issue that needs recognition from the Government, argues Susanna Kalitowski, policy and research manager at the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY).
She told HuffPost UK childcare providers are acutely aware of how much parents struggle with childcare costs, and raising fees is usually a last resort.
“What we desperately need is a recognition from government of the true cost of providing childcare, and a long-term sustainable funding settlement for providers that offers families the affordable, high quality childcare they need,” she said.