With less than 6 months to go until all three and four year olds in England will be entitled to 1140 hours of government-funded childcare per year – the equivalent of 30 hours free funding per week over 38 weeks of the year. In the aftermath of the spring budget, we have been taking some time to understand some of the new detail behind the doubling of the early years’ entitlement across England.
It is clear to see that the “30 hours funding” is not a policy without limitations and what seems to be adding to the issue, is the noticeable lack of, and in some cases, incorrect information surrounding the issue.
We therefore wanted to provide some additional facts for all early years providers if you are currently deciding whether to offer the 30 hours free funding entitlement, especially as the government has recently updated the policy. It is important to note that it is not compulsory and you have the right to decide if applying the 30 hours free funding is right for your setting.
From September 2017, parents will be able to access the funded hours between 6am-8pm. This doesn’t mean that your setting has to be open for this extended period, it’s just meant to offer more flexibility for both parents and settings to use the allowance
The minimum session length of 2.5 hours has been removed and no longer applicable. The maximum length remains at 10 hours. It is also completely up to you, the provider, to decide when you offer parents funded hours. There is no mandatory pattern. This can therefore be ‘stretched’ across the whole year and could therefore include school holidays and weekend.
The Early Years Entitlement can be taken with up to two provider’s per day so if a parent wanted to split the 30 hours free funded hours between a pre-school and a childminder then this could be possible.
We know that a subject regularly brought up are the charges around the funding and what can be additionally charged to parents when they are accessing a funded place. The Government has confirmed that the funding for both the current 15 hours and the additional 15 does not include food or other consumables and additional services. Therefore, providers can charge parents for “discretionary consumables” (e.g. drinks, meals, nappies, wipes) or additional services (e.g. trips, special classes) as long as they are not compulsory and not a condition of taking up a funded place. Key feedback from the pilot settings seems to be that charges for additional services are the way to ensure settings remain within the Code of Practice and sustainable.
The Early Years sector is one of the most resilient and adaptable we have come across. There seems to be endless changes in the regulation and legislation for Settings to abide by. The 30 hours free funding is undoubtedly a significant change and there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach which can be viewed as both a positive and a negative. We will endeavour to keep you up to date with further changes and please do get in touch if we can be of any assistance to your setting during this period.
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