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2 year old funding announcement causes more concern

2 year old funding announcement causes more concern

The squeeze on nursery places is set to tighten as the Government opens up free childcare for thousands more 2-year-olds.  Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is widening the scheme to families earning less than £16,000 and receiving working tax credits, with a budget of £755m for 2014. This is expected to provide funding for around 40% of 2 year olds by September next year.

Mr Clegg hopes to double the number of 2-year-olds getting free nursery time, saying it will give more disadvantaged children the chance to start school on an equal footing with their peers.

But Fiona Onasanya, Labour’s spokeswoman for children on Cambridgeshire County Council, said although increasing numbers of children entitled to free early years provision “can only be a good thing”, it comes when there are huge cuts to other areas of children’s services.

She said: “The Government is giving with one hand and taking away with the other. It’s like removing someone’s teeth and then asking them to chew.

“We are already struggling to meet the need for places for 3 and 4-year-olds and it is bound to be a real challenge to ensure high quality nursery provision in the right places for 2-year-olds as well.”

The Pre-School Learning Alliance has raised concerns that the Government will continue to pay nurseries at the national average rate of £5.09 per hour to provide the childcare for increased number of disadvantaged two-year-olds.

Neil Leitch, Chief Executive, said: “We are extremely disappointed to see that there has been no increase in the average rate of funding announced last year, despite annual inflation of around three per cent and the fact that providers have repeatedly stated that this figure in no way reflects the true cost of the delivery of this provision.

“Alliance members are already facing enormous challenges. Many indicate that they are subsidising year-on-year increases in costs to enable them to continue to deliver the right kind of individual and specialist support to children in their care – particularly those with more complex needs.

“Quality provision simply cannot be provided on the cheap. It is unfair – and frankly, unfeasible – to expect providers to continue to absorb the additional costs associated with delivering quality care. If the government continues to provide an inadequate level of funding for this scheme, it is inevitable that we will continue to see a decline in the overall quality of early years provision in the long term.”

Purnima Tanuku, National Day Nurseries Association chief executive raised similar concerns in a statement: “The announcement of a £755m funding pot for local authorities to deliver the next raft of two-year-old places must be passed on in full to the early years providers to ensure we have enough high quality places.

“Thanks to a more transparent system announced along with this funding, local authorities and childcare providers will be able to see how many two-year-olds in their catchment area are eligible for funded places.

“Ministers have recently been urging local authorities to pass on the free place funding in full and we would ask them to take notice and listen.

“NDNA’s latest nursery survey showed the rates around 50 per cent of providers were receiving for a two-year-old place was less than the amount it cost to provide the care. In order for the system to be sustainable and provide quality early education and care, funding must meet costs.”

How do you feel about the announcement?  Is it positive for the industry or another example of the government asking too much without enough funding?  Share  your thoughts by commenting below.

Two year old childcare funding starts today, and will double next year.

Two year old childcare funding starts today, and will double next year.

Today sees the start of free childcare for 130,000 2 year olds, and the government has announced that this figure will double by September next year for families that earn less than £16,910 a year and receive working tax credits

Children who are in care, adopted, disabled or have a disability or special educational needs will also benefit from next year.

Mr Clegg gave details in a speech today, stressing that the government is helping more children achieve a ‘brighter start in life’

He stated: ‘All the evidence shows that if you take two children – two five-year-olds hanging up their coats next to each other on the first day of school – the poorer child will already be behind their better off classmate before a single lesson has been taught.

‘Without this help, children suffer and the whole class suffers as teachers have to focus more of their efforts on children who are frustrated and left behind through no fault of their own.

‘I believe that every British family, whatever its structure, background and circumstances, should be able to get on in life.’

Ten trial regions were introduced last year including Blackpool, Cornwall, Greenwich, Kent, Lambeth and Newcastle, affecting almost 1,000 two-year-olds.

Mr Clegg decided that parents would be given the option to spread their free nursery place over two days, rather than three, and to use the free hours between 7am and 7pm rather than 8am to 6pm.  This was intended to make it easier to fit the childcare around working lives.

If you’re struggling to implement the new 2 year old funding, click here to see how Abacus, the award-winning Nursery Management Software, can streamline your administration and produce accurate invoices at the click of a button.

There are, however, concerns that the budget will not increase to meet the demand as the Government will spend £534m on the scheme this year but only £760m in 2014.

The Pre-school Learning Alliance has voiced concerns, and Chief executive Neil Leitch said: “This is a tremendous initiative that will help to support young children who statistically run the risk of being marginalised throughout their entire life.”

He warned: “Our fear is that should this well-intentioned initiative be grossly under-funded, the Deputy Prime Minister will not achieve the brighter start in life for these children that he wants.”

Anand Shukla, Chief Executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, shared concerns, and pointed out that nursery closures could impact the delivery of free childcare.

“We are concerned that loss of nursery provision in children’s centres is impacting on local authorities’ ability to find sufficient places for the offer. New research by the Family and Childcare Trust, to be published later this month, indicates that a minimum of 108 nurseries across England have closed or were never commissioned as they were supposed to be,” he said.

 

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