He said, ‘I have to say I almost feel like I am living in a parallel universe, as I spend a lot of time visiting nurseries, indeed yesterday I had a nursery owner with six nurseries in the south of England who were saying they are up for it and they are engaged with the scheme and they are delivering childcare on the basis of the scheme.’
Mr Goodwill was speaking at a debate called by Labour MP Ruth George on concerns over delivery of the 30 hours scheme.
Shadow minister for early years Tracy Brabin replied, ‘The example that you are [giving] is a nursery provider with six nurseries. They may be able to square the circle but what we are also concerned about is the smaller providers.’
Mr Goodwill replied, ‘Precisely, indeed many of the smaller providers have the proprietor working in the nursery so it is not necessarily the case that the costs are higher.’
Mr Goodwill said that childcare was ‘the issue’ for many families with young children and some parents spent a third of pay on childcare, adding ‘it is this government’s priority to make sure that these parents who want to work after having children can do so and that the cost of childcare isn't a barrier.'
But he was interrupted by Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds, who said ‘I just can’t believe you are saying you are not receiving representations as to problems with policy. I’ll give you an example. My children’s school is ending its free provision before age four because funding doesn’t work in the way it worked in the past and there is a net reduction in provision - are you honestly saying you are not receiving these messages from around the country?'
Mr Goodwill replied, ‘I am surprised to hear that…Thameside Council in his area has received a 25 per cent increase in its hourly rate following our review.’
And the MP for Stockton North, Alex Cunningham later said, ‘I accept that there is money in the system, that’s the money that was promised, but the provision just simply isn’t ramping up to the extent it needs to be. What more can the minister do beyond the funding to encourage the providers to give us the facilities for disabled children?'
Mr Goodwill replied, ‘Children with special needs do need special provision and that is something we are very keen to ensure we continue to deliver on'. He added the new EHC plans 'were proving very effective way to identify those children most in need, but we also need to see how we can help those in the early years.’
Opening the debate, Labour MP Ruth George said, ‘The fact that the minister claimed that he hasn’t heard a peep from about problems in the pilot areas or in the full rollout has annoyed many of them.’
Robert Goodwill said he was referring to representations from MPs. ‘I was listing the pilot areas and referring to MPs in the house - that they had not raised those issues with me during the period of the trial’, he said.
Ms George countered, ‘I am afraid I have copies of emails from providers in York and Scarborough in which they were writing about concerns about the pilot which they were piloting themselves.’
Tracy Brabin added, ‘There are tens of childcare providers in the committee room. Perhaps he would like to come and meet them as he originally intended.’
Nursery World saw several childcare providers accost Mr Goodwill as he left the debate.