2020 has begun, somewhat predictably, with continuing and growing concern about funding rates for the ‘free’ hours of childcare that are threatening the sustainablity of many early years settings.
As we report on pages 8-9, providers across the country are complaining of being unable to budget properly for the next financial year as many councils have either decided not to consult on the new rates or have delayed talks as April looms.
Any rise is only likely to be a few pence per hour anyway, despite National Living Wage increases adding to the problems of existing, long-standing underfunding.
Meanwhile, the National Day Nurseries Association has released research showing that local authorities have been underspending the money they receive for funded hours – to the tune of £63.5m in 2018/19.
Again, this doesn’t add up to a huge amount per provider, but it certainly isn’t helpful, especially as some councils have seen underspend clawed back by central government.
What can be done, taking into account that early years may well fall down the list of government priorities now?
Research company Ceeda is holding an event on 23 January bringing the sector together to talk about both short-term and long-term action to meet the funding challenges. We’ve also joined up with Ceeda to run a poll to get a snapshot of sector opinion, which you can find on our website and email bulletins. Please do respond and join in if you are able, so that we can all work together on a robust and effective plan for change.
As we went to press, Tulip Siddiq returned as shadow early years minister. She has been a great supporter of the early years and it will be good to have her on board.