Sector responds to cutting red tape review

Jo Parkes
Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The sector has responded boldly to the Government’s review of the red tape burdening early years provision, amid fears of a ‘tipping point’.

Besides the ubiquitous concerns over insufficient funding for the free entitlement, among a raft of issues highlighted by the sector are inconsistent Ofsted inspections and a poor complaints procedure, and onerous business rates, along with DBS and payment delays.

The Cutting red tape review is seeking to understand ‘regulatory burdens to business’, caused by legislation and the way it is delivered, and to decide on how to minimise them.

Respondents were encouraged to feed back on barriers including those that put off new entrants, prevent existing providers expanding, and which unnecessarily divert providers from care, or contribute to them leaving the sector.

In its response, the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) warned of ‘a sector at tipping point’, with a five per cent drop in the workforce since 2005, and with businesses facing imminent decisions about their future viability.

Victoria Flint, PACEY’s communications director, said, ‘In our response, we point out those regulations that we think are vital to the high quality care of children and therefore do not pose an unreasonable burden on childcare providers, and we also highlight the key areas which we believe do pose unnecessary burdens on providers.

‘The main regulatory burdens that threaten the sustainability of childcare providers (and in particular, childminders) include problems with funding and delays in payment, administrative and additional requirements specified by some local authorities (“basket of measures”), DBS delays and planning restrictions.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), called for a ‘cross-Government review’ to simplify childcare funding.

Ms Tanuku said, ‘Our members tell us that red tape and regulation increases their business burdens and overheads in a sector which is already struggling to be sustainable, largely due to underfunding of free childcare entitlement.

‘A few measures which we have outlined in our response would make a great difference for childcare providers who are keen to support the delivery of the Government’s flagship policy of offering 30-hours free childcare, but who fear it wouldn’t be sustainable in the current climate. 

‘We would urge the Government to address as a priority the recruitment crisis within the sector, the inspections and appeals process and a move to exempt childcare providers from paying business rates.

‘Looking to the longer term, it’s time to stop the clock on incremental changes to childcare policy – the latest of which is the move to 30 hours – and have a cross-Government review to simplify and streamline childcare funding into one simple parent-held childcare passport.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, identified one of the most pressing issues raised by members as being the impact of Level 3 GCSE requirements on staff retention and recruitment.

Mr Leitch said, 'We continue to urge the department to accept functional skills as equivalents to these qualifications, a change that is all the more vital in light of the impending rollout of the 30 hour offer.'

The Alliance's response also highlighted challenges faced by providers of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision, especially the 'extremely lengthy' funding application process for one-to-one support.

'Significant delays in receiving funding can mean that providers have to pay costs up front themselves, before attempting to claim the money back, and this is something that government must address if it is to ensure that all children, including those with SEND, have adequate access to quality childcare,' added Mr Leitch.

'As always, the challenge with regulations is balancing the desire to reduce unnecessary burdens on providers with the need to ensure the quality of the service that we are delivering to children and families.

'We hope that the government continues to work closely with the sector to ensure that any changes made to existing regulations are appropriate, measured and in the best interests of the child.'

The Government's deadline for responses was 20 May.

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