Parents still struggling to access 30-hours places

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Nearly one in three codes issued to parents for the 30 hours by the end of August have not been validated by providers or local authorities.

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New figures released by the Department for Education today (8 September) reveal that 216, 384 eligibility codes were issued by 31 August for children aged three, of which 152,829 or 71 per cent, were validated by 5 September. This leaves 29 per cent whose code has yet been verified.

The DfE said that this data 'excludes 6,904 codes issued and 2,709 codes validated for children aged four at 31st August, as it is likely these children will be in reception and therefore ineligible for 30 hours free childcare.

'However some of these children may defer their entry into reception and continue to be eligible for the additional 15 hours offer– these children are not captured'.

According to the DfE, reasons why codes might not yet have been validated include the fact that as of 5 September (when the data was gathered) schools had only just started to open again after the summer holidays, and some codes might have been issued to children who will not turn three till later in the autumn so are unable to take up a place till next term.

The DfE said that the number of validated codes is likely to be higher now.

Local authorities and providers can continue to validate codes for places for the autumn  term, providing the code was applied for by 31 August.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, 'It’s wholly unacceptable that nearly one in three families are still without necessary verification codes [codes that have not been validated]. With the new term well underway, it is unbelievable  that some families are continuing to face uncertainty.  An urgent investigation needs to take place to resolve this latest issue - whether it relates to provider or local authority difficulty accessing the Department for Education’s Eligibility Checking System (ECS) or a failure by the system itself to manage demand.'

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, 'There appears to be a big gap between those eligible and those who have had their codes validated.

'Those parents who could not access their codes by the end of August will now have to wait until January, missing several months of funded childcare.

'We know that some parents were given manual codes, but we don’t know exactly how many yet. Also if their child starts later this month, will the Government funding be backdated for providers and will this cause a further delay in the money being available to them?

'There must be a very clear and urgent communication for both providers and parents on this issue.'

A DfE spokesperson said, 'We are spending over £2.5bn on 15 hours of free childcare for disadvantaged two-year-olds over five years. We know that the take-up of this offer is rising, with 71 per cent of disadvantaged two-year-olds accessing a place - an increase of 13 percentage points since 2015.'

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