According to the figures, 377,535 codes for the 30 hours of funded childcare for three- and four-year-olds were issued for the summer term by 31 March. Of these, 327,558 were validated by the local authority by 9 April, equivalent to 87 per cent of all codes issued. This means that nearly 50,000 parents have not had their code validated.
As expected, the number of codes that have been issued have increased since the previous terms.
Codes can continue to be validated by local authorities throughout the term, however, and further figures on validations for the summer term will be published by DfE.
Once parents apply and are issued a code for the 30 hours of funded childcare they must take it to their childcare provider who sends it to their local authority to be validated before they can take up their place.
Reasons parents may have not had their code validated include not being able to find a childcare place, taking the decision to delay when they take up the 30 hours or if they decide not to take up the offer at all.
The Pre-school Learning Alliance said the figures indicate that the Government is going to face a ‘real challenge’ in ensuring sufficient 30-hour places during the summer term.
Chief executive Neil Leitch commented, ‘Given the Department for Education itself has acknowledged that the demand for places during this term will bring ‘a variety of challenges’, it’s clearly vital that providers are encouraged to engage with the 30-hour offer – but the fact is that this simply won’t happen unless the Government addresses the issue of underfunding.
‘Given that most providers will have seen little to no change in funding rates this April – despite significant increases in minimum wage requirement and other costs – it would not be surprising if many were unwilling to consider increasing the number of 30-hour places they offer, meaning that many areas of the country are likely to see a shortage of available places. This is all fixable – but only if the government accepts that its current head-in-the-sand approach simply isn’t working.’
Shortly after the figures for code validations were published yesterday, the children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi tweeted, ‘BREAKING (Sic): The number of parents securing a code for 30 hours of free childcare has risen to over 377,000. This offer is saving hardworking parents money on their childcare bills and giving them extra cash in their pockets.’
His tweet attracted criticism from the early years sector, with one user @MichelleBonsor tweeting, ‘Absolutely brilliant scheme with absolutely no thought whatsoever about the cost to provide those spaces by the provider. Running at a loss, is this what you had in mind? Perfect. Imagine just for a minute how long business can run at a loss before going under? Ridiculous!
@CNLFcampaign tweeted, ‘It is at the cost of our passionate and dedicated sector. Childcare choices are actually far less than they ever have been, settings are closing and the sector is at breaking point. May we ask, when are you going to engage with the sector?’
Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY (Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years), said, ‘While we agree helping families access quality early education is good news, it’s bad news when this is at the expense of childminders, nurseries and pre-schools being paid so little they can’t cover their delivery costs. If this isn’t fixed, future families will miss out. Our latest Building Blocks survey aims to give a true picture of the sector with unique insight and clarity on key issues such as the 30 hours offer.’