NDNA response: Evaluation of Early Rollout of 30 Hours Free Childcare report
Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association, said: “The government must acknowledge that there is a serious problem and that we are at a crisis point with 30 hours funded childcare. This is from a funding point of view and also regarding the Childcare Choices website.
“It must be acknowledged that there is a funding shortfall to pay for this childcare, which is not free and never has been.
“This new evaluation report published today by the DfE reiterates some of the challenges that NDNA has been highlighting for a number of years.
“Low funding rates was the biggest reason cited by providers for not taking part in this scheme which matches our own research.
“Carrying out further evaluation on the financial impact of this policy on providers is not necessary. Following years of chronic underfunding, we already know it is having a detrimental effect on sustainability and some nurseries are going out of business as a result.
“The report clearly highlights the ongoing increased delivery costs that providers face, such as rising business rates and National Living Wage, which have not been taken into account within the funding formula. This needs to be done urgently.
“Another major issue acknowledged in the report is that calling the 30 hours free is misleading and raises false expectations of parents. These hours need to be called subsidised, not free.
“The report also says that providers were willing to offer extended ‘free’ hours in pilot areas, but that is because many do not believe they have a choice within market forces. Parents would simply move their children to a setting which does offer this.
“With regards to whether the pilot providers were offering ‘flexible and free’ hours, we strongly urge the government to allow nurseries to deliver this scheme in a way which suits their own businesses. If this means charging parents for additional services or only offering it during certain hours in the week, that has to be a business decision in order to balance the books. If providers are not allowed this flexibility, then they risk seeing many more businesses closing their doors.
“The evaluation report states that there was a tendency for higher costs and lower profits, which adds weight to the argument that nurseries need to be in charge of their own business decisions.
“This policy needs to be reviewed urgently, not just in April 2018.
“If there is no meaningful investment available, the government needs to acknowledge that all childcare providers are different and charge accordingly. One size does not fit all. Parents must be allowed to choose where to send their child and use the government money as a subsidy towards their place.”
Read the Evaluation of Early Rollout of 30 Hours Free Childcare report here