The national support programme, called Childcare Works, will be run by consultancies Hempsalls, an early years specialist, and Mott MacDonald.
Its aim is to help local authorities create the estimated 45,000 new three- and four-year-old places needed in England.
Business support to childcare providers, particularly in areas where 'sufficiency is a significant risk', will be part of the package.
The DfE has acknowledged that ‘the implementation of the programme will create several challenges and we will need LAs and providers to work closely together to provide sufficiency of places'.
Concerns have also been voiced by MPs, think tanks and early years bodies that there will be a national shortage of 30-hour places, and that disadvantaged children will lose out. Less than half of all nurseries were planning to provide 30 hours of free childcare when the scheme starts next September because the funding doesn’t meet their costs, according to an NDNA survey from February.
Hempsalls and Mott MacDonald also jointly held the contract for the funded two-year-olds programme, A2YO, which was for the most disadvantaged children only and saw take-up levels rise to nearly 70% of eligible children.
The project will include monitoring the piloting authorities to see whether they are creating the required capacity, provide access for children with SEND and develop systems to check the eligibility of children of working parents. Another aim is to help childcare providers ‘maximise’ the funding given to them.
Settings will be invited to seminars on the 30 hours, with regional networking events for local authorities to exchange information and case studies made available on each of the pilot areas.
The consultancies will work with charity Action for Children on running ‘Learn Explore Debate’ events for childcare providers and will also contribute to work on developing access to 30 hours by children with SEND.
James Hempsall, National Programme Director, said, ‘This programme will focus on addressing the barriers to implementation, and direct time and effort where it is needed most and will have the biggest impact.’
The contract was scheduled to start in August but was delayed following the EU referendum, and lasts until August 2018 when it can be renewed for a year.
- Charities can also apply for a share of a seperate £5.2m pot aimed at supporting the Government’s early years priorities. The voluntary and community sector grant scheme funding is intended to target four priorities, including supporting disadvantaged children and supporting the 30 hours. The Early Years VCS Grant Programme was launched as part of a £60m a year scheme in 2011/12 which was subsequently cut to £25m in 2015/16.
- James Hempsall will be speaking the Nursery World Business Summit on 8 November www.nurserybusiness-summit.com