Childminders’ 30 hours funding gap

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Childminders will lose an average of £410.40 per child a year under the 30 hours due to a shortfall in funding, a survey has revealed.

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Chatterbox Childcare in Swindon

Childminders will lose an average of £410.40 per child a year under the 30 hours due to a shortfall in funding, a survey has revealed.

The survey of 1,523 childminders, carried out by the Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) between February and March, and given exclusively to Nursery World, reveals a ‘significant’ shortfall in funding for childminders in England to deliver the free hours.

According to the findings, childminders in England charge between £3 and £10 per hour, with an average rate of £4.64. However, while the average hourly rate that local authorities receive from the Government for the free entitlement is slightly higher, at £4.85, the average amount being passed on to childminders in 2017-18 is £4.28 – an hourly funding shortfall of 36p per child.

Local authorities must pass on 93 per cent of the funding, rising to 95 per cent from April 2018.

According to the survey, a childminder offering the 30 hours would lose £410.40 per child per year. If they offered three funded places, the shortfall would be £1,231.20 per year.

‘MIXED PICTURE’

PACEY said that while some childminders will be able to make up the shortfall through funding supplements provided by their local authority for deprivation and quality, or through the Early Years Pupil Premium, many may not qualify for the supplements. They could also charge parents for extras or ask parents to supply food and consumables for their children, but many already do so.

The survey found that 60 per cent of childminders do not charge parents for food, outings or other activities.

As part of the research, PACEY took a more in-depth look at 16 local authority areas from where it received more than 20 responses from childminders.

Susanna Kalitowski, PACEY’s policy and research manager, said it found ‘a wildly varying approach’ by local authorities in the funding they provide to deliver the free hours, including the different types of supplements.

For example, in Swindon (see box), childcare providers receive a 70p supplement, on top of a base rate of £3.86, if they offer the 30 hours all year round and in ten-hour blocks, bringing their hourly rate to £4.56 per child –closer to the national average charged by childminders.

However, Ms Kalitowski said other local authorities hold back the maximum amount of funding and only offer the mandatory deprivation supplement for eligible children.

She added, ‘The 30 hours doesn’t have to be a disaster if it is funded properly, and from our research we can see that some local authorities are passing on more of the funding they receive from Government; however, it is a mixed picture.

‘We expected the survey results to show a funding shortfall, but the scale of the shortfall is more than we anticipated. We hope the gap between rates charged by childminders and the funding they receive isn’t as wide next year when local authorities have to pass on more of the money.’

Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, said, ‘Our research highlights that if a childminder just offered funded places for two-, three- and four-year-olds, they would soon face closure. Most childminders are on very low incomes.

‘While some local authorities’ hourly rate does cover the full cost of delivering a place, in others the shortfall will have to be made up through supplements or by charging for extras. However, this comes with risks. Government guidance is clear that charges cannot be a condition of offering a place; funding supplements are complex and could change in the future. None of this is likely to persuade many childminders to risk their livelihood and deliver even one or two funded places.’

CHATTERBOX CHILDCARE

Childminder Debbie Southern has been involved in the pilot of the 30 hours in Swindon.

Rated Good by Ofsted, Ms Southern works with two others and provides care for six children aged three and four, half of them eligible for the 30 hours. The children use their hours in different ways.

Ms Southern says the funding supplement of 70p for providers who flexibly offer the 30 hours over 48 weeks and in ten-hour blocks had persuaded her to take part in the scheme and continue with it after its national roll-out in September.

She says, ‘With the supplement I can cover my costs as I stretch the funding. I charge parents £4.25 per hour if children attend all year round. Parents are given the choice of providing a packed lunch or paying an additional charge for a meal and a weekly outings fee.

‘All providers within Swindon Borough Council are very fortunate as we are paid a higher rate compared with other boroughs.’

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