A survey of 1,662 nurseries, pre-schools and childminders in England has highlighted that only a third of these are able to deliver the Government’s 30-hour scheme without any additional charges.
A further 36 per cent of childcare providers are delivering fully ‘free’ places to some, but not all, parents and 28 per cent of providers are delivering no fully ‘free’ places.
Data from the survey, carried out by the Pre-school Learning Alliance, showed that 37 per cent of respondents have introduced or increased fees for additional goods and services, including children’s meals and snacks.
The 30-hour scheme, which was introduced last September, gives eligible working parents of 3- and 4- year-old children 30 hours of funded childcare during term-time.
Childcare providers and campaign groups like CNLF have issued stark warnings that the levels of funding from the Government are inadequate to cover costs, forcing them to ask parents to make up the shortfall in different ways.
The current government funding levels are frozen until 2020, however, data from the survey revealed that a fifth of providers do not think their business will be sustainable in a year’s time as a result of the current level of funding.
Over half of providers (55%) stated that the funding they receive is actually less than the hourly cost of delivery.
Also being brought into question is how the 30-hour scheme is helping parents and supporting those who want to return to work after maternity leave.
Although intended to help parents back into work, many aren’t eligible for the scheme until their child is three, and only some can claim for two-year-olds if they receive certain benefits. Once their child does turn three, parents then have to wait until the next school term to claim their 30-hour place.
Chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, Neil Leitch, said: “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.
“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.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “We are investing a record amount of around £6 billion every year by 2020 in childcare and have doubled the free childcare available to working parents to 30 hours a week, saving them up to £5,000 a year per child.
“Providers can choose whether to offer 30 hours and what pattern of days and hours they offer parents. We have always been clear that Government funding is not intended to cover the costs of meals or additional services.
“However, while providers can charge parents for additional extras, this cannot be a condition of the child’s place.”