Nurseries are being advised by local authorities to be ‘more creative’ to remain sustainable, with suggestions including taking in ironing and seeking donations.
A thread on the Champagne Nurseries, Lemonade Funding (CNLF) Facebook page highlights the varying advice childcare providers are receiving from business advisors employed by local authorities.
It comes at a time when many childcare settings are struggling to make ends meet due to increased costs and in some cases stagnant or reduced funding for the 15 and 30 hours.
One nursery on the CNLF Facebook page said it had been advised by its council business advisor that when it has staff spare, it could offer an ironing service for parents.
Another setting in a different area said the advice it received included asking volunteers to do admin, or for the manager do it in her own time; operating at minimum adult:child ratios; reducing staff numbers when a child is on holiday; not paying for tea and coffee for staff; and rather than paying for cleaners, getting staff to clean during sessions.
Carousel Day Care in Middlezoy, Somerset, which is closing as it cannot afford to cover the cost of providing the 30 hours, says it was told to put a bucket in reception for donations.
Other nurseries have been advised to pay all staff the same rate – not taking into account their qualifications, consider asking staff to work voluntarily for a term until ‘things pick up’, and sell takeaway meals to families.
James Hempsall, national programme director of Childcare Works, which is providing support to early years and childcare providers to deliver the 30 hours, said, ‘What’s good is that providers are listening, thinking and discussing a whole range of advice and ideas. Because it is clear that every childcare business needs to consider what is funded by DfE via the local authority and what can continue to be charged for.
‘This is a serious and frustrating business issue. And the solutions rest in providers knowing their own business, and developing income-generating opportunities to support their business objectives. Settings are best placed to decide what this looks like. And the providers in the early implementation and early roll-out areas have done just that. Many examples are on the Childcare Works website.
‘Some of the stories and ideas shared online clearly aren’t useful as they don’t acknowledge the unique quality services that providers offer and parents value. Generic business support doesn’t cut it either. We believe business support for settings considering 30 hours should be from people who live and breathe early years and childcare, from a quality, sustainability and practical business perspective.’
The minister for children and families Robert Goodwill said, ‘We are determined to support as many families as possible with access to high-quality, affordable childcare, which is why we are investing a record £6 billion every year by 2020 in childcare – more than ever before. This includes an additional £1 billion per year to pay for the free offers and to raise the total hourly funding rate to local authorities for three- and four-year-olds to £4.94 per hour.
‘This rate is based on a comprehensive review of childcare costs, which took into account current and future cost pressures. They are also far higher than the average hourly cost of providing childcare for three- and four-year-olds, which recent research has found to be £3.72.’
He added, ‘Our early delivery programme has already been a huge success – including in the areas using our increased funding rates – and many thousands of hardworking parents are seeing the benefits of access to 30 hours of free childcare.’