According to centre managers, new Tory plans to nearly double the amount of free child care could cause nurseries to struggle financially.
The Conservative Party has made a pledge to raise the amount of free childcare for working adults from 16 hours per week to 30 hours. However, councillors have been told this week that up to 40% of nurseries in Plymouth would not be able to expand to take in the influx of children and could possibly see them go bust.
Sue Kowalska and Karen Sweet from the Cabin Childcare Centres have said that the planned rise in the minimum wage from the current £6.70 to £9 by 2020 for people aged 25 and over could increase pressure on the childcare sector.
Currently, the Government pays nurseries £3.92 per hour of free child care it offers. However, customers of private nurseries pay as much as £5.90 per hour, meaning that nurseries that receive a high influx of parents taking up the free hours could struggle to make enough to cover costs.
On Monday, a cross-party panel looked at the effects that George Osborne’s Summer Budget might have on childcare providers in Plymouth.
During this, councillors were informed that up to 30% of the 127 centres in Plymouth that are currently providing early years education had said that they didn’t have enough space to expand, while another 10% stated that they didn’t have the sole use of their building, which limited their ability to take on more children.
Ms Sweet said that with children being entitled to even more hours, it would mean that those with children on the nursery waiting list would continue to go without a place. She also added that without a rise in Government funding along with the proposed minimum wage rise, it could mean that a lot of nurseries are more reluctant to take on more qualified staff.
Ms Kowalska said that unless the system is made more viable, then many centres would be forced to close which would leave the children attending them without a place to go.
Both Ms Kowalska and Ms Sweet were asked by Tory councillor Steven Ricketts if they would agree that the Government’s rise in childcare provision was a good thing, with both agreeing to this statement.
However, Labour councillor Sally Bowie stated that it was: “not fantastic if we can’t cope with it”.