Editor’s view - Something in the Air?

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Look hard and you may be able to detect signs of softening on childcare funding rates in the latest government statements

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Liz Roberts

Every year around this time, Coram Family and Childcare (its latest name) releases its survey of childcare fees across Great Britain.

And every year, the story is that fees have increased, putting parents’ finances under strain.

There are now differences because of policy changes, of course, with working families of three- and four-year-olds benefiting from 30 hours of funded childcare, which can mean that there are higher fee rises for under-threes and non-funded hours.

And early years providers always point out that the combination of under-funded places plus rising costs of the living wage, business rates, pensions and more, give them no option but to put fees up.

Meanwhile, the government has just announced a £24m funding boost for maintained nursery schools, after sustained lobbying from that part of the sector and MPs from across the political spectrum.

It is obviously a fairly simple win for government to help 400 or so nursery schools, offering high-quality services particularly for disadvantaged children, and they deserve to be sustainable. But what about the 24,000 PVI providers seemingly stuck on inadequate rates in many cases.

The 2019 fees survey and the MNS money, however, coincide with a feeling that perhaps some action on a wider scale is in the offing.

DfE said that the Coram research was ‘one of several pieces of research on various aspects of the provider market which we will be considering in the round as we approach the Spending Review’. The Frontier Economics report on costs is also due in the near future.

All together, there seem to be a few hints in recent government pronouncements that concern about rising costs and stagnant rates is being heard. Will it be enough for the Treasury to shell out?

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