Childcare red tape review reveals confusion and high cost of regulation

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Paperwork costs childcare providers more than £17m a year, a Government review into cutting red tape has found.


Paperwork is estimated to cost the childcare sector £17.6m a year

Inspections, guidance, and paperwork are among the regulatory burdens faced by the childcare sector, costing providers millions of pounds a year.

The Government is to develop a ‘myth-buster’ document to dispel confusion around the inspections process and reduce the duplication of paperwork, particularly between Ofsted and local authorities.

The Cutting Red Tape review carried out between April and December aimed to identify barriers to growth and productivity in the childcare sector and received evidence from more than 250 childcare providers from childminders, small nursery businesses with fewer than ten staff, and large multinational nursery groups. A stakeholder survey was also carried out that asked for cost estimates of regulatory activities, such as inspection.

The review wanted evidence of burdens that act as a barrier to attracting new childcare providers, prevent existing providers from expanding their business, unnecessarily divert providers from spending the majority of their time caring for children or contribute to existing providers leaving the sector.

The ‘myth-busting document’ will be published by April 2017.

Key findings

Inspections – inconsistencies between inspections and inspectors regionally, uncertainty on what needs to be evidenced, and a need for a ‘balanced and targeted inspection regime’. The current inspection regime costs providers £8.2m a year.

Paperwork – an increase in assessment paperwork, duplication/overlap in request for information and an increase in  in the administrative burden for accessing funding. Current volume of paperwork costs to providers £11.5m a year.

Guidance – can be difficult to understand, changes frequently, and needs to be more specific and targeted. Stakeholder survey estimated that staff hours devoted per year to finding, reading and interpreting guidance places an estimated cost to providers of around £11.5m a year.

Learning and development –Lack of clarity on what training is required by law and ‘a dearth of recognised training and refresher courses'. Stakeholder survey estimates that three days for each member of staff a year are needed to complete required training at an estimated cost of around £100m.

Workforce skills – ‘A real need for greater recognition for functional skills’. Providers with degrees but without GCSE English and maths above grade C are unable to progress to Level 3.

The National Day Nurseries Association held several consultation events attended by Better Regulation Executive representatives, which carried out the review.

Claire Schofield, director of membership, policy and communications at, said, ‘We are pleased that they have taken forward the sector’s concerns about inconsistencies among local authorities, particularly in the way they administer funded hours, and recommended a new model agreement. Recommendations are similar to the Department for Education’s own consultation findings on 30 hours.

 ‘We are also pleased that the sector’s strong, united voice on workforce skills and qualification issues has been heard. ‘

NDNA has campaigned for childcare to be exempt from business rates, and Ms Schofield added that they would have liked ‘Government acknowledgement of the huge burden of Business Rates on nurseries – there needs to be more support beyond simply pointing out reduction and relief schemes available to all types of businesses.

‘On inspections, the Government response talks about revisiting the possibility of paid-for inspections. This doesn’t need reassessment – it simply needs implementing. The law was changed in 2014 to allow paid-for inspections but no mechanism has yet been put in place for it to happen.

‘Finally, more work is needed on establishing a fairer appeal process, without the accompanying legal bills that make the process prohibitive for many, following progress made by regional scrutiny panels.’

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