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