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30 hours offer is "not completely free" for parents, according to DfE report

By Rachel Lawler
 
girl catching bubbleMost parents are paying additional charges for accessing the 30-hours offer, according to research commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE).
 
Conducted by Frontier Economics, the research confirms that 56% of parents are paying charges for additional items or activities when accessing the 30 hours offer. 48% of parents said that they had seen restrictions placed on when they could use the hours.
 
Reduced profits

Additionally, the research found that 39% of providers reported a reduction in their profit or surplus due to the 30 hours scheme while 25% of providers said that they had moved from making a profit to breaking even or from breaking even into making a loss.
 
The researchers spoke to 774 parents and 1,717 providers about the offer and collected further information from 12 local authorities.
 
Local authority concerns

The local authorities said that many providers could not offer the 30 hours to parents “completely free for all parents”. The report says that many reported that providers were adapting their business models with additional charges or extra hours to remain viable.
 
The local authorities also said that many providers wanted the word ‘free’ dropped from the 30-hours policy. They also said that they expected pressures on providers to develop new business models to continue because “the funding rate is planned to remain unchanged while costs will increase”.
 
"Irresponsible to the extreme"

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “The government’s unwavering insistence that all is fine with the 30-hour offer in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary might be funny if it wasn’t so damaging.
 
“Every week we are hearing about more and more nurseries, pre-schools and childminders being forced to shut their doors because they cannot make this policy work.
 
“Our recent survey revealed that four in 10 aren’t sure they’ll survive the next 12 months. Now its own commissioned research is highlighting the challenges that this underfunded scheme is creating. How can the DfE describe this as a successful policy?
 
"With so many parents having struggled with the cost of childcare over recent years, it's no surprise that so many have welcomed this scheme - but let's not forget that they too are starting to feel the effects of the government's lack of adequate funding, with nearly half having already seen fees and charges rise as struggling providers try to bridge the funding gap. And of course, this means that, contrary to the government's rhetoric on social mobility, it is those lower incomes families, who cannot afford to pay above the odds for what the government continues to promote as 'free childcare', that are the most likely to miss out.
 
"This simply isn’t sustainable and for the government to continue to insist that all is fine when study after study and survey after survey say otherwise is irresponsible to the extreme. It's time for ministers to face facts and start working with the sector to try and salvage this policy and ensure that it is, in fact, viable in the long term."