MPs debate 30 hours in Parliament 

MPs debated the issues of 30 hours funded childcare in the House of Commons on 12 October 2017.

Stella Ziolkowski, NDNA’s Director of Quality and Workforce Development, outlined our members’ challenges of poor funding and high costs at a lobby meeting before the debate. 

Ruth George MP, who called the debate, extensively quoted NDNA research in her speech, saying:

“It’s no wonder that the National Day Nurseries Association, from their survey in September, said that the 30 hours policy was in chaos. They said that more than half of nurseries had serious worries about having to increase fees for paid-for hours to unacceptable levels and even about staying in business at all. Nearly 300 nursery managers and owners completed the survey. It found that four-fifths of them offering 30 hours were having to make additional charges for food and special sessions such as language or sports classes. More than half of respondents said parents understood additional services and were happy to pay, but a quarter said they were finding parents didn’t want to pay.”

She also quoted research from the Preschool Learning Alliance, Pacey and the Champagne Nurseries, Lemonade Funding group, and the sector was well-represented at the debate, with the support of many MPs who represented individual nurseries from their constituencies. Other key points raised by Ruth George MP included:

  • Nurseries have spent hours helping parents to navigate the Childcare Services website
  • The hike in business rates is affecting many nurseries (see petition here)
  • She represented nurseries which have had to close their doors in her constituency of High Peak, as well as those who have seen a huge rise in the costs per child per week, and who are seeing an annual shortfall of tens of thousands of pounds 
  • She raised questions on the impact of the quality of staff as nurseries struggle to afford to employ graduates and other qualified staff
  • Ruth closed her speech with: "We have seen a policy that may have had good intentions at the outset - although it might have been more about votes than quality childcare – but the underfunding is undermining the needs of that policy throughout the country, and I urge the minister to look again, especially at the projected figures for the next financial year.”

Other MPs from across the country supported Ruth and represented nurseries in their constituencies, raising points and making statements including:

  • A lack of information for parents on the Childcare Services website
  • Parents offered jobs are worrying about whether they will be eligible if they accept
  • “This proposal of free childcare if far from free if hard-working childcare providers have to shoulder the cost”
  • “A policy that doesn’t recognise the real cost of nursery provision risks reducing the availability of childcare places”

Childcare Minister Robert Goodwill responded, saying:

  • A 10% increase in funding would cost in excess of £250 million a year - to which MP Stephen Lloyd responded that if providers drop out there will be no business for our children, and that £250 million split across that sector, particularly for something as important for our children and their future, is a price worth paying
  • Mr Goodwill said he had visited many nurseries which were up for the challenge, and felt he was in a 'parallel universe' - to which MP Tracy Brabin said: "The nursery provider in his example has six nurseries and may be able to square the circle, but we are also concerned about the smaller providers"
  • He acknowledged the All Party Parliamentary Group on Childcare and said he looked forward to attending it
  • The government would issue codes for parents with job offers
  • Mr Goodwill said the government predicted 200,000 parents would be eligible in September followed by another 100,000 around Easter/Christmas as they turn three. He said over 216,000 parents have successfully received eligibility codes for the Autumn term
  • He gave an update that 90% of these codes have been taken up by providers on behalf of parents seeking a 30 hours place – up 19% from the 71% when he last reported. He said they did not expect to achieve 100% as parents' situations change
  • Mr Goodwill said the Early Education Strategy guidance is clear that providers can charge parents for meals, consumables and for hours outside the free entitlement. However, parents must not be required to pay any fee as a condition of taking up the free place.

Ruth George MP closed the debate by asking the Minister to revisit the costings and meet providers to learn from them, especially those in outstanding settings employing graduate and fully qualified staff in order to provide the best-quality childcare.

Watch the full video of the debate here (from 3pm) and read the full script here.