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Department for Education 30 hours funding: Questions and Answers

The Department for Education (DfE) has responded to comments and questions raised by NDNA members concerning funding and the position of local authorities, eligibility and legal requirements.

1. Are two-tier admissions policies acceptable – one for parents buying extra hours above the free entitlement and one for parents only using free entitlement?    

Page 12 of the statutory guidance sets out very clearly that LAs should:  “ensure providers deliver the free entitlements consistently, so that all children accessing any of the free entitlements receive the same quality and access to provision, regardless of whether they opt to pay for optional hours, services, meals or consumables”.  

Having choice over the hours they can access the entitlement, and not having to reserve a place each term are not additional services, but are about the access to core provision. There should be no difference in the core provision of funded hours available to parents taking the free entitlements, regardless of whether they choose to pay for optional extras.

Providers should make clear over what days and hours of the week they will offer the entitlements and this should be available to all who take up the entitlements, regardless of whether their parents choose to pay for optional extras. Providers can, of course, charge parents for additional hours outside the core provision. 

2. Can a provider set an admissions policy where they have a limited number of ‘free only’ places, for example, five places for children only taking 15 or 30 hours and once these are full, places are only available for parents paying for a year round place  and/or additional services?

Providers can limit the number of funded places they offer, but not according to whether parents choose to pay for optional extras. 

3. If children are not having lunch at nursery as parents are opting not to pay, and packed lunches are not allowed, is it acceptable for parents to be asked to pick the child up over the lunch break e.g. morning session 9am-12 noon, lunch break 12-1pm  afternoon session 2-5pm?  

The statutory guidance is very clear on page 14 that “Evidence shows that continuous provision is in the best interests of the child. Where it is reasonably practicable local authorities should ensure that children are able to take up their free hours in continuous blocks and avoid artificial breaks being created throughout the day, for example over the lunch period.” It is also clear, on page 13, that “providers should work with parents to ensure that as far as possible the pattern of hours are convenient for parents’ working hours”. Requiring parents to pay for lunch, or pick up their child in the middle of the day during the lunch hour, is not consistent with this statutory guidance.  

4. Some local authorities, previously with very low centrally retained funds are now looking to increase the level they retain. Because the amount of money to each authority is increasing, due to the increase from 15 to 30 hours, the amount of money retained in some cases will increase significantly – for example an LA previously retaining 9% would have more money if they drop down to 7%. 

DfE:  It is for LAs to decide the actual funding allocations to providers and their level of central spend. However, local authorities must apply the 93/95% central spend requirement; and the other requirements (for providers’ allocations) in their local formulae. Further detail for LAs (which providers will have an interest in) can be found in the operational guidance here . We are placing the requirements into legislation in the New Year and will monitor local authorities closely to ensure they are meeting them.

5. Base rates for consultation in areas receiving around the £4.30 per hour rate to the local authority are coming in below £4.00. 

DfE: Based on the requirements (supplements, SEN Inclusion Fund etc.) local authorities with a £4.30 hourly rate have the scope to pay providers (an average) of at least £4 per hour, but depending on how a local authority constructs its local formulae, there could be a range around the average £4 per hour figure. We would encourage providers to engage with their local authorities regarding their current (or shortly forthcoming) local funding formulae consultations.

6. What is DfE’s position on parental agreements that offer different arrangements for parents paying for extra childcare over and above the funded hours, to the arrangements for parents who only take up the funded place and no additional hours.

DfE: We are clear that providers can charge parents for meals and additional services but they cannot make this a condition of taking up a publicly funded place. We do not endorse the emerging models which make childcare less flexible and uncertain for those parents unwilling or unable to pay for additional services.

7. Is it a requirement for a legal agreement to be in place between the local authority and providers?

DfE: There is no legal requirement for an agreement to be in place between the local authority and providers, but local authorities must ensure that providers deliver funded hours according to the requirements set out in legislation, and should ensure that they deliver according to the statutory guidance. We know that most local authorities and providers have agreements in place for delivery of funded hours, and the model agreement will help standardise these agreements, and ensure consistency across different local authorities. The model agreement will be published in early 2017.

8. Eligibility – how many hours of funded childcare are parents entitled to if they work more than 16 hours a week and meet the other requirements for eligibility, but don’t work a full 30 hours per week. For example, if a parent works 18 hours a week?

DfE: The legislation is clear that qualifying parents should have access to 15 additional hours of childcare regardless of their working hours.

For more information see our Early Years Funding Reforms factsheet or visit our funded nursery places page.