The introduction of 30 hours’ free childcare for three- and four-year-olds will mean nurseries could close, an education charity has warned.
A survey by the Pre-School Learning Alliance (PLA) of 1,400 nurseries, pre-schools and childminders, carried out in August 2017, found that 42% don’t feel confident they have enough places to meet demand.
The survey found that 49% of childcare providers plan to increase how much they charge for additional (non-funded) hours as a result of the scheme.
And 52% plan to make changes to what they charge for goods and services, including a) introducing or increasing charges for meals and snacks (37%) and b) introducing or increasing charges for trips (20%).
Commenting on the survey, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said: “Parents who expected 30 hours of ‘free childcare’ to take up when and how they wanted, are now facing additional fees and charges and either unexpected restrictions on when they can take up their places, or a struggle to find places altogether.
“We cannot wait for this problem to solve itself. Every week we’re hearing of more and more parents struggling to find places that actually suit their childcare needs. Every week we’re hearing of more and more childcare providers being forced to shut down as a result of the 30 hours. This simply cannot continue.
“It’s time for the government to step up, admit it got this wrong, and fix the mess that it has made. Otherwise it will be parents and providers who pay the price.”
The survey also found that 42% don’t feel confident they have enough places to meet demand and 38% don’t think they’ll be sustainable in 12 months’ time.
Minister for Children and Families, Robert Goodwill, told BBC News: “We are determined to support as many families as possible with access to high-quality, affordable childcare, which is why we are investing a record £6bn every year by 2020 in childcare - more than ever before - and doubling the free childcare available to working parents to 30 hours a week, saving them up to £5,000 a year per child.
“This funding includes an additional £1bn per year by 2019-20 to pay for the free offers and to raise the national hourly rate to local authorities for three and four year olds to £4.94 per hour. This is far higher than the average hourly cost of providing childcare for three- and four-year-olds, which recent research has found to be £3.72.
“The 30-hour offer is already being delivered in several areas across the country, with over 15,000 children benefitting from a place.”
HuffPost UK contacted the Department of Education for comment. They sent over a statement from Education Secretary Justine Greening, that said: “High quality childcare not only helps our children get the best start in life, it supports many parents who want or need to work.
“For too long lots of families really struggled to manage the cost of childcare and that’s why we have delivered on our promise to provide 30 hours free – saving working families around £5,000 a year. Alongside the support we are giving through Tax-Free Childcare and Universal Credit, it will make a real difference to families’ lives.”
For more information about the 30 hours of free childcare and to find out if you’re eligible, click here.