Childcare (affordable)

Question asked by Isis Amlak

Before the introduction of the National Funding Formula by Central Government in April 2017, schools were able to provide 15 hours’ free nursery provision a week: it was previously possible to use funding to provide free childcare for disadvantaged families. Changes to national guidelines mean that the same funding has to be provided by councils to all providers, so this is no longer possible unless the schools provide it out of their own budgets, and schools, with many other pressures on their budgets, have been introducing and increasing charges to cover their costs. The Council has been working closely with all its providers to ensure the provision of affordable childcare in the borough, but does not have powers to set fees. The borough reviews all provision to assess not only whether there are enough places in the borough, but whether the provision is affordable.

The Department for Education funds councils within London at a rate of £7.30 per hour, which equates to £1,200 per term for the statutory 15 hours’ provision. Thomas Jones Primary School has adopted this rate for its additional provision (so that 30 hours’ provision costs £2,400 per term), and this is the rate the borough recommends to all its providers as it is based purely on a cost recovery model. The £7.30 per hour rate is lower in comparison to a range of private providers across the borough.

In September 2017, the government doubled the statutory entitlement to 30 hours’ childcare for working parents. The borough has been working with the Department for Education and Schools and parent reference groups to encourage take up of this offer through extensive communication and information. In addition, the borough has worked with all providers to assist with registration and identification of eligible parents. Working parents who earn the equivalent of 16 hours at the national living wage or minimum wage per week (£120 per week) are entitled to free childcare of up to 30 hours per week under this entitlement (this equates to £2,400 per term).