In a debate yesterday on early years funding, the Earl of Listowel asked the Government whether it plans to conduct an annual review of early years childcare funding to ensure sustainability and quality. Responding, Lord Nash, parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Education, said that although the Government plans to monitor the implementation of the 30-hours, there are no plans to conduct a formal annual review.
It follows concerns by early years organisations that the new minimum rate of at least £4 an hour to deliver the free childcare places, announced by the Government last week, is still not enough for many settings to deliver the 30 hours sustainably.
The Pre-School Learning Alliance said it was disappointed by the news that the Government has no plans to formally review the cost of delivering childcare and early years education going forward.
Its chief executive Neil Leitch said, ‘Whether or not funding matches the cost of delivery, we believe it is crucial these costs are monitored so as to inform Government of the real cost of delivering childcare.
‘The Government’s failure to work with local authorities on this has contributed to the present funding shortfall, and we know that this is only going to worsen with the roll-out of the extended hours scheme.’
He added, ‘Through our Fair Future Funding campaign, we are calling on the Government to introduce a statutory requirement on local authorities to collect annual data from providers on the cost of delivering free entitlement places. And, to undertake an annual review of free entitlement funding levels and how they compare to the cost of delivering places, so that funding can be increased when necessary.
‘Ultimately, if rising business costs aren’t matched by increases in funding, providers will have to choose between increasing the cost of paid-for hours or going out of business. Either way, it will be parents or providers who end up paying for this poorly thought-out government policy.’
During the debate, Lord Nash was also questioned about the delayed children’s centre consultation.
He replied, 'I know that the party opposite always raises this point. An independent study made it quite clear that the number of people accessing these centres has remained remarkably consistent over the last few years, even though a number have merged and indeed, a number have closed. The important point is their quality and location. I refer back to the point that no Government in history have ever invested so much in early years and childcare as this one.'
The former childcare minister Sam Gymiah announced last July plans to launch a consultation on the future of children’s centres that autumn. In January, the Department for Education confirmed the consultation had been delayed.