On 5 November the Government published its response to the consultation on the implementation of the 30 hour free childcare entitlement consultation. The document highlights responses and sets out the Government’s planned course of action:
A national fixed ‘grace’ period for parents who move in and out of eligibility will be established – the length to be determined following further “informal consultation” and the national Eligibility Checking Service will be developed to ease concerns about the administrative burden voiced by local authorities and other providers.
In response to comments about the flexibility of provision, guidance will make clear that while provision must be offered for no fewer than 38 weeks – LAs should work with providers to enable where possible parents to ‘stretch’ the free child-care over a full year. The minimum session length will be abolished to enable parents and providers to determine the most appropriate provision.
In response to concerns about how children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) would be affected the Government will (subject to the early years funding consultation) introduce a targeted Disability Access Fund and SEN inclusion fund model. Along with improving guidance and issuing best practice guidelines.
Government guidance will make clear that by September 2018 the expectation is that all childminders will be paid monthly. It will produce model template agreements for use by LAs and providers. Guidance will also make clear that the funding for the ‘free’ entitlement is for early education and childcare not consumables (such as food, drink or nappies).
Guidance will make clear that LAs are required to issue termly information about childcare.
Many respondents also raised issues about the level of funding for the extended entitlement and concerns about the impact on provider sustainability. The DfE consulted separately about Early Years funding and has not yet published its response.
Early years minister, Caroline Dinenage, briefly addressed the release of the document during the nursery world’s business summit. She stated that while she wanted to help working parents with more affordable childcare she did not want to do that “off the backs of breaking the childcare sector”.
NGA welcomes the government’s commitment to increase the amount of free hours of child care available to parents, but is concerned that the funding provided does not cover the actual cost of provision. For provision to be sustainable and high quality the funding must be adequate.