I doubt if there would be much of a problem with the free entitlement if this issue was addressed, instead of the Government trying to make worthy noises about ensuring that all parents are able to access it and at the same time expecting private providers to subsidise their policies.
Ms Hughes also failed to mention the problem of inconsistent interpretations of the code of practice by different local authorities, some of which are trying to impose onerous and bureaucratic requirements on providers, or the varying level of the grant between authorities.
We are concerned that the already low level of the grant will be further eroded by future increases that do not keep pace with increases in nursery running costs. Salaries are constantly being driven up by Government policy due to the knock-on effect of minimum wage increases and children's centres that do not appear to have to be commercially viable and are paying over the odds for staff.
Since the grant was introduced in the form of nursery vouchers in 1997, the rate per hour has increased by about 20 per cent, based on the current 8 grant for a two-and-a-half hour session. Salary costs have increased by more than 50 per cent over the same period.
It should be clear even to Ms Hughes that this free entitlement on the cheap is unsustainable and providers are going to opt out of the scheme or give up.
John Watson, Bramleys Nurseries, Wantage, Oxon