Par­ents caught in chaos of 30 hours’ ‘free’ child­care

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - YOUR MONEY - Amelia Mur­ray

Par­ents are get­ting tan­gled up in the “chaos” of the Govern­ment’s new 30-hour free child­care scheme, which has been branded a “mis­man­aged” and un­der­funded pol­icy. Work­ing par­ents of chil­dren aged three and four have been given 30 hours’ free child­care from Septem­ber 1 but are find­ing that the scheme has fallen far short of what was promised.

Temi Kam­son is hav­ing to split her 30 hours between two nurs­eries for her three-year-old son Daniel be­cause his ex­ist­ing nurs­ery can­not af­ford to of­fer the full al­lowance.

Ms Kam­son, 33, said the nurs­ery could of­fer the free hours only if par­ents com­mit­ted to 35 hours a week of child­care all year. The five ex­tra hours would have to be paid for. Ms Kam­son, a teacher from Croy­don, said she did not want to have to com­mit to child­care all year when she was free to look af­ter Daniel out­side term time.

“The 30 hours of free child­care was such a wel­come con­cept but the whole thing’s been a night­mare,” she said.

Even those not el­i­gi­ble for the free hours are be­ing af­fected thanks to the squeeze on fund­ing. Sarah Dale, a nurse from East Sus­sex, was told to find a new af­ter-school club for her 10-year-old son Lewis be­cause her nurs­ery could not af­ford to of­fer him a space if it wasn’t cer­tain to be used.

Ms Dale, 31, works hospi­tal shifts and so can­not guar­an­tee when she needs child­care. As squeezed nurs­eries strug­gle to make up the short­fall in the govern­ment fund­ing, Ms Dale said par­ents who didn’t need full-time places might be the first to be dumped.

Al­most half of child­care providers sur­veyed by the Pre-school Learn­ing Al­liance, an ed­u­ca­tional char­ity, said they planned to in­crease charges for items such as food as a re­sult of the new scheme, while 42pc said they didn’t ex­pect to be able to of­fer as many places as needed.

Some nurs­eries have al­ready cho­sen to close as they say the new scheme is un­af­ford­able, be­cause the rate that the Govern­ment of­fers is 39p an hour be­low the ac­tual cost of pro­vid­ing child­care.

Neil Leitch of the Pre-school Learn­ing Al­liance said it was un­fair that par­ents were fac­ing ad­di­tional fees, re­stric­tions and lim­ited places as a re­sult of the “com­plete mis­man­age­ment” of the pol­icy.

The De­part­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion said there was “no ev­i­dence of fund­ing be­ing a sub­stan­tial bar­rier to [the scheme’s] de­liv­ery”.

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