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25,000 eligibility codes for 30-hours have not been validated

By Rachel Lawler
 
girl playing with bubbles
Around 25,000 eligibility codes for the 30-hours offer have not been validated for the spring term 2019, according to the latest statistics from the Department for Education (DfE).
 
Parents who are eligible to access funding for a 30-hours place for their three- or four-year-old child can apply for an eligibility code via the Childcare Service website. Once issued, this code must then be validated by their chosen early years provider(s).
 
These latest statistics show that a total of 24,813 codes issued to parents for the spring term 2019 have not been validated, as of 28 January 2019.
 
The figures also demonstrate regional differences in access to the 30-hours offer. 93% of all codes issued in England have been validated but regions such as Walsall (78%), Bexley (69%) and Thurrock (67%) show a much higher percentage of eligibility codes still not validated with a provider.
 
The DfE said that some providers may still validate codes partway through the term, but these figures suggest that some parents issued with a code may not have been able to secure a 30-hours place for their child.
 
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “We know that finding affordable, accessible childcare is a real challenge for many families across the country and to that end, it's very positive to see that the number of parents able to validate their 30-hour eligibility codes remains high.
 
“That said, these statistics are likely to be of little comfort to the 25,000 families who have applied for 30-hour codes but been unable to validate them. What's more, it’s clear that the availability of funded places remains a postcode lottery – in some areas of London, more than a quarter of families who have requested a 30-hours code have not been able to access a place. With more and more providers struggling to make ends meet in the face of rising business costs and frozen funding levels, it’s likely that such a squeeze on places will continue to grow in the months ahead.
 
“And of course, what these figures don’t show is whether or not parents accessing the 30 hours offer are receiving places that are genuinely ‘free’. We know that many pre-schools, childminders and nurseries are having to find ways to plug the ever-increasing funding gap and, in many cases, this means passing on this shortfall to parents in the form of additional fees and charges, often leaving those families most in need of support struggling to access places.
 
“If the government really wants to honour the promise of ‘free childcare’ it made to parents, and ensure that places are available to all, it simply must invest more into the sector – there is no alternative option.”
 
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