Members of the campaign group ‘Champagne Nurseries on Lemonade Funding’ (CNLF) have made a formal complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority (formerly known as the Monopolies and Mergers Commission) about the Government’s abuse of the childcare market.
The complaint outlines how the Government has abused its legislative powers by regulating the childcare market, stating that “[the] price fixing of both the purchase and sales price is an abuse of market control”.
In September 2017, the Government will roll out its 30-hour offer to eligible 3 and 4-year-old children of working parents in England. However, due to the shortfall between the true cost of providing the ‘free’ hours and the deficit in funding from the Government, many childcare providers believe they will be unable to deliver childcare in a sustainable manner and will be forced to close.
This effect is in direct opposition to the Government’s aim of providing more childcare for the estimated 400,000 families who will become eligible for the additional 15 hours in September.
The complaint by CNLF, which has almost 7,000 members, states that the childcare sector is already in jeopardy due to factors such as the introduction of workplace pensions, consistent increases in the National Minimum and Living Wages and Business Rates revaluations.
It goes on to state that the Government has “ploughed on with its political agenda based on non-representative data” in reference to a survey commissioned by the Department for Education to establish the true cost of childcare, which only received 284 responses.
CNLF’s action comes in the wake of a recent survey of councils in England by the Family and Childcare Trust which found that over half (54%) said they did not know if they would have enough childcare available for eligible pre-schoolers using the 30 hours.
A spokesperson for the CNLF campaign group, said:
“We looked at various ways to challenge the Government on the issue of underfunding in Early Years. This route is a direct way of getting the legislation around funding investigated.
“As private businesses, PVI’s (private, voluntary and independent childcare providers) have been absorbing and trying to manage the costs associated with delivering the ‘free’ Early Years Education since its introduction. The extension to 30 hours for working families brings with it the real threat of closure for some settings who simply can’t absorb or manage further losses.
“As providers, we fully support the Government helping families with childcare costs, however, the policies around funding mean that we have no choice but to cross-subsidise by charging inflated fees for hours outside of funded hours and charging for additional services for things that the Government say should not be provided within the funding.
“This is not something we want to do and not something we feel parents should be faced with. It is a consequence of a policy which the Government has not funded properly and which childcare providers cannot afford to subsidise but know that they run the risk of being forced out of the market if they do not offer the funded hours.
“Research showed that only 51% of nurseries in England were expecting to make a profit in 2016, with the average nursery losing an astonishing £957 per child, per year on the 15 hour offer.
“This level of loss on 15 hours of funding means that the increase to 30 hours is simply untenable for the whole sector at the current funding rates, the only way to ensure the ongoing viability of the whole sector is to remove the word free and allow the funding to be used as a subsidy.
“We are confident that the CMA will carry out a thorough investigation and we await their response.”
Research from the University of Surrey claims that children attending an ‘Outstanding’ nursery or one with highly qualified staff has limited benefit for them.
The research, published on the 13th February, outlined how the Government spends £2 billion a year on providing part-time nursery education for 3- and 4-year-olds in England. In the sample used for the research, 1 in 10 children attended an ‘Outstanding’ nursery, two thirds attended a ‘Good’ nursery, 1 in 5 attended a ‘Satisfactory’ one and 2% attended an ‘Inadequate’ nursery.
The research was conducted by teams from the Centre of Economic Performance (CEP) at the London School of Economics, University of Surrey and University College London.
Dr Blanden, a senior economics lecturer at the University of Surrey, said: “Successive governments have focused on improving staff qualifications, based on the belief these are important for children’s learning.
“Our research finding that having a graduate working in the nursery has only a tiny effect on children’s outcomes surprised us.
“It is possible it is driven by the types of qualifications held by those working in private nurseries, they are not generally equivalent to the qualifications of teachers in nursery classes in schools.”
He added: “Some nurseries are helping children to do better than others, but this is not related to staff qualifications or Ofsted ratings.
“It is extremely important to discover the factors that lead to a high quality nursery experience so we can maximise children’s chances to benefit developmentally from attending nursery, particularly as the government extends the entitlement from 15 to 30 hours.”
The teams compared data on children’s outcomes at the end of reception with information on the nurseries they attended before starting school for 1.6 million youngsters born between 2003 and 2006.
The research found that commonly used measures of pre-school quality in England were not able to explain much of the variation in children’s outcomes at school.
A Larkhall toddler has returned to his former nursery before heading to the USA next month for life- changing surgery to say thank you to everyone there.
Donna Bittles, along with her three-year-old child Dylan, visited Happy Feet Nursery in Larkhall to collect a cheque for over £3000 that the nursery had raised for Dylan.
Dylan was born prematurely at 11 weeks and suffered a bleed to the brain; this led Dylan to be diagnosed with quadriplegia cerebral palsy, meaning he is confined to a wheelchair with limited movement and barely any independence.
Dylan is set to head to the USA next month to receive life-changing elective dorsal rhizotomy which, unfortunately, is a procedure he is not currently eligible to receive in the UK.
The family created the Do it for Dylan fund to help with the costs for this procedure and in just three months reached their target of £60,000.
Happy Feet Nursery throughout the year helped Dylan’s family reach this £60,000 by holding a large amount of fundraisers such as sponsored walks, 70s themed nights and even got the other nursery children involved by doing a green coloured theme day. The total amount of money raised by the nursery was £3,175 which the nursery would like to thank the staff, children and parents for helping to raise.
Childcare costs rose by an average of 19% in 2013, according to Findababysitter.com’s annual report, which focuses primarily on childminders, nannies and other forms of home-based childcare.
The cost of nannies rose the most, from an average of £6.59 an hour in 2012 to £8.73 last year – a rise of 25%.
The website collected data from 231,000 nannies, childminders and other professionals, however the data fails to consider the free nursery places that the government funds.
Its chief executive, Tom Harrow, says paying for childcare is becoming “incrementally harder for parents each year”.
He believes the rise is a consequence of an increase in demand for childcare, while the supply is remaining broadly static.
Liz Bayram from PACEY says she doubts overall childcare costs have risen by as much as 19%, but that cost pressures on carers, such as higher energy and food prices, are having an impact.
“Childcarers are among the poorest-paid professionals,” she says, adding that “more current government funding should be delivered directly to families rather than getting lost in the system”.
Labour has claimed that the rising cost of childcare is harming the economy, with the shadow children’s minister, Lucy Powell, stating that childcare costs “lock parents who want to get back to work out of the jobs market”.
The Department for Education has also introduced tax-free childcare, under which “all eligible families receive up to £1,200 towards each child’s childcare costs”, and is “meeting up to 70 per cent of childcare costs for low and middle-income families through tax credits.”
Is the government doing enough?
• Over half (51%) of all parents in the UK think the government is not doing enough to support them when it comes to childcare (compared to 55% last year)
• This figure rises for stay at home parents – 60% said the government isn’t doing enough
Affording to work
• Almost 1 in 4 unemployed parents in the UK (24%) would prefer to work, but they say they can’t because of high childcare costs
• 38% of parents aged 18-24 would prefer to work, but say they can’t afford the high childcare costs
• The more children an unemployed parent has, the more childcare costs act as a barrier to seeking employment (35% for 3-4 children / 23% for 2 children)
• The top 5 cities where unemployed parents are struggling to afford childcare costs most are: Birmingham (37%) Bristol (32%) Oxford (25%) London (24%) Leeds (23%)
Findababysitter.com also says the childcare market is evolving, with a big increase in demand for nanny shares. There was a 226% increase in the use of the term “nanny share” on the search function of its website last year.
Read the full report on findababysitter.com Please comment below:
Laura Henry has asked the Department for Education to co-host the popular weekly twitter conversation #EYTalking.
This will take place on Tuesday 21st January 2014 from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. GMT.
The Department has set the following discussion points and is keen to communicate as widely as possible across the sector on the following issues:
how to encourage schools to offer more Early Years and out-of-school childcare, including in partnership with PVI providers;
how to encourage more childminders to enter the profession whether independently or as part of an agency;
how to help parents make informed choices about childcare, including knowing how to demand a quality service.
As well as these discussion points, there may be other complementary issues that the sector may like to raise with the Department. Be sure to spread the word, especially to colleagues who are unable to attend events and conferences, so that they too can have their say on these important sector issues.
Remember on the evening to use the hash tag: #EYTalking to share and connect with others on the debate.
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