Parents taking advantage of David Cameron’s promise of extra free childcare could find themselves stuck with a bill, nurseries have warned.
The Tory ex-PM’s pledge to double the amount of free childcare to 30 hours a week by 2017 was a key part of the party’s 2015 Manifesto.
But nurseries say the Government is already dramatically underfunding them for the free care they provide now.
Some say they could be up to £70,000 worse off if the plan goes forward with the current funding, and it will lead to many nurseries abandoning the scheme altogether.
While nurseries aren’t allowed to charge parents for ‘free’ childcare, they can charge for other things that are usually included in the hourly fee, like food and nappies.
One nursery owner told the BBC she’d be asking parents to make contributions of £5 or £10 a day.
But today the Department for Education said the government subsidy was “not intended to fund the cost of consumables (such as drinks, meals and nappies) or additional services (such as trips).”
They also insist: “Paying for additional services must not be a condition of taking up a free publicly-funded place.”
Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner said: “The Government’s underfunding of childcare shows that they do not understand the challenges faced by working families in this country.
“Their manifesto commitment to deliver 30 hours of free childcare a week is evporating because, as always with the Tories, they simply fail to fund vital public services.”
Another nursery owner told the BBC non-fee paying parents will have to apply for a place three times a year, and wouldn’t be allowed to choose their hours – leading to fears it could create a two-tier system.
Currently parents can claim up to 15 hours of taxpayer funded childcare.
The policy will be trialled in York from next month and will be rolled out across England in 2017.
Vanessa Warn, who runs two nurseries in York said she expected the policy to leave her £70,000 a year worse off.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance said: “As the Department for Education itself has acknowledged, if childcare providers find that they’ll be financially worse off by delivering the 30 hours, many will simply opt out of the scheme.
“Unless the government ensures that funding actually covers the cost of providing free childcare – and will continue to do so over the years to come – this is exactly what will happen.”
The Department for Education said: We are doubling our free childcare offer for working parents to make it easier for them to get on and balance work with their family lives. We will be spending a record £6 billion on childcare by the end of this Parliament and recently published plans for a fairer funding system for nurseries and preschools, which received widespread support.
“We had huge demand from local areas to take part in delivering our 30 hour offer a year early and the eight areas that were chosen – including York – will help us get the delivery of our offer right so we can hit the ground running in September 2017.
News Source MirrorNews