Act now or 1140 hours childcare policy is at risk
Confidence has plummeted so low within the early years sector in Scotland that only 30% of private nurseries are likely to offer 1140 hours of funded early learning and childcare, says National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) Scotland.
This contrasts hugely with the picture last year, when NDNA Scotland’s annual nursery survey found that more than half of private nurseries were likely to deliver 1140 hours of funded childcare to all three and four-year-olds.
But 46% of nurseries surveyed for the 2018 study told NDNA that they would be unlikely or very unlikely to provide 30 hours cover, with only 7% of respondents able to double funded childcare to meet the full 1140 provision on current funding rates.
Funding shortfalls have expanded dramatically, with more nursery businesses expecting to make a loss and many owners fearing they will be forced to close before the ambitious scheme begins in 2020.
Launching the report findings today in Glasgow, NDNA’s Chief Executive Purnima Tanuku said: “NDNA has uncovered the true predicament that nurseries in Scotland find themselves in and it has reached a crisis point.
“Private nurseries just don’t feel confident that sufficient funding will be passed onto providers by local authorities to make it worthwhile for them to deliver the full 1140 hours provision. This would drastically reduce childcare choices for parents.
“These figures make grim reading, with the average nursery having to absorb £1,188 for each child during the course of a year. Many are small businesses which just can’t continue with this level of debt.
“As the Scottish Government via local authorities is their biggest customer, it needs to guarantee it can pay a fair rate which would enable all providers to continue as sustainable businesses.
“We need action now with an urgent injection of cash to improve current funding rates, otherwise many nurseries will not even be open by 2020.
“The requirement for providers to pay staff the Real Living Wage, which is over and above the legal minimum, is too much for nurseries to commit to without knowing how much they will be given per child. Nurseries as responsible employers support paying proper wages for quality work but to do this, they need adequate funding from government to deliver the policy otherwise they cannot make ends meet.
“Although we welcome the Scottish Government’s ambitions to give all children the best start in life, the sector needs to see the policy given priority and sufficient resources behind it for it to be a success.”
The survey also found that:
- Top three challenges for nurseries this year are increasing staff wages, recruiting and retention of staff, achieving profit/surplus
- 79% of nurseries say funding for three and four-year-olds doesn’t cover their costs, with the shortfall increased to £1.98 per hour or £1,188 per year
- Likelihood of getting involved with 1140 hrs scheme – 30% said it was likely/v likely compared with 51% in 2017; 23% not sure; 46% are unlikely/v unlikely to be involved compared with 24% last year
- 81% said a better funding rate would enable them to offer 1140 hours, 53% being able to make mandatory charges for “extras” such as food, day trips etc, 44% being allowed to set session times
- Half of nurseries are increasing their fees and by more than last year (5.8% compared to 4.2%)
- A quarter of nurseries say their local authorities are not funding cross boundary children
- Fewer nurseries predict a profit or surplus (38% compared with 46% in 2017) but more predict losses – 16% compared to 12% last year
- More nurseries are losing staff to the public sector – average of 3 per year for better pay and conditions
The NDNA survey took place in March and April 2018. We received responses from 226 nurseries, which is 30% of the total private nursery sector in Scotland. Case studies are available for a number of regions.
Read the Annual Survey report here.