Lords vote for independent funding review ahead of 30-hours roll-out

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Peers have voted in favour of an amendment to the Childcare Bill requiring Government to carry out an independent review of funding before the free childcare entitlement is doubled.

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During a House of Lords debate on the Bill yesterday, peers voted 222 - 209 in favour of the amendment, which requires Government to carry out an independent review of funding and find a 'comprehensive and sustainable' funding solution, before the introduction of the 30 hours.

The amendment, tabled by Labour peer Baroness Jones of Whitchurch last month, states that the independent review must include a large-scale analysis of the cost of delivering the places.

The 30 hours of free childcare for three and four-year-olds from working families is due to start from September 2016.

Speaking during yesterday's debate, Baroness Jones said, ‘My Lords, we have repeatedly said that we support the concept of extending free childcare. But we want a policy that will not just grab the headlines; we want a policy that will work. Sadly, this is where we and the Government part company.’

She added, ‘There are real questions about how these new places are to be funded and what will happen if they are not fully funded. This was to form a central part of the funding review and, sadly, this is what we have been denied so far. There are also real concerns from the sector about the way the funding review is being carried out.’

The Childcare Bill now moves to the third reading stage in the House of Lords, which will take place on 26 October.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘We are delighted that that the House of Lords has listened to the concerns of the early years sector and made this vital amendment to the Childcare Bill.

‘It is imperative, now, that this clause remains part of the Bill as it continues its journey through Parliament. Up until this point, the Government’s funding review has been disjointed, rushed and unfocused. The Government should now commit to undertaking a full, in-depth review of childcare funding, ensuring that a credible, sustainable solution to underfunding is put in place before the plans are rolled out.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said,  ‘It’s really good that there is such robust scrutiny of the Childcare Bill happening in the House of Lords. We at NDNA are speaking to politicians across the spectrum who understand the nursery sector’s concerns about the funding of expanded free childcare.

‘It is vital that a sustainable funding solution is in place before reform goes ahead. This solution must work for the long-term and incorporate both the additional financial pressures of National Living Wage on childcare providers and the need for employers to be able to offer their workforce the right training, development and career progression.

‘It is really important that the Government now responds to this amendment and ensures that funding review findings are fully published and scrutinised. The Government must work with the sector to come to a solution to benefit childcare providers and parents.’

Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said, ‘The House of Lords has sent a clear message that the 30 hours of free childcare for working families should be adequately funded. Only then will it be provided by well-trained staff and available to all children, including those with special educational needs and disabilities. Only if these two elements, quality and accessibility, are guaranteed can the Childcare Bill deliver on its promise to improve children’s early development, while helping busy families remain in work.’

 

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