While the latest Department for Education figures show an increase in the number of codes issued for the 30 hours for the spring 2018 term since last month, 18 per cent have yet to be validated. Parents cannot take up a 30 hours place until their code has been validated.
Nursery World reported on 19 December that 305,691 codes had been issued for the spring term, as of 8 January this had increased to 326,068 – surpassing the DfE’s target.
However, of the codes issued, just 266,494 have been validated (82 per cent).
A breakdown of the figures by local authority show variations in the number of codes that have been issued and validated. For example, Hillingdon has validated just 41 per cent of the 1,464 codes issued to parents and Waltham Forest 51 per cent of the 1,634 codes issued. However, 98 per cent of codes were validated in Solihull where 1,502 codes were issued.
The latest data includes new codes issued for the spring term, as well as codes originally issued for the autumn term.
According to the DfE, the process to produce eligibility code information has been updated since the last publication of figures in October to remove instances where a child is allocated more than one eligibility code. For example, when a child has received a temporary code via a manual application route and subsequently generated a digital code via the Childcare Service.
Code validations in the first half of the autumn term (before 21 October) are not included in the spring codes validated total.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, 'Ministers have serious questions to answer about what is their flagship childcare policy. It’s not fair that parents in two in five local authorities are less likely to find a funded childcare place than their neighbours, or that technical issues continue to prevent families of accessing the funded childcare they’re entitled to.
'We take no pleasure in this situation, but childcare providers have repeatedly warned ministers underfunding would lead to this. Unfortunately these problems will only worsen as more children become eligible this term and next. But nothing will change until ministers shift the burden of delivering funded childcare from parents and providers back onto the Government which has implemented this policy, by ensuring cost of "free" childcare is met by adequate funding.'
Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for childcare and early years (PACEY). said, ‘The latest data shows DfE has achieved its target of 310,000 codes issued, but a decline in the number of codes validated as a percentage of codes issued warrants further consideration.
‘It is still early days for the roll-out of the 30 hours offer, but there is a mixed picture concerning implementation. PACEY is calling on Government to commit to providing more robust data on the actual take up of places, and to do more to challenge local authorities where take-up is low. In particular, Government should consider how improved funding levels to providers in some areas could support the creation of more places, and crack down on those local authorities who are still creating unnecessary red tape for providers to battle through if they want to deliver these places. Only by working together can we ensure all families who want a place can secure one for their child.’