“Tens of thousands of parents are still waiting to find out if they can take up a government offer of 30 hours’ free childcare days before the scheme is due to be launched.
According to the latest figures, revealed in a letter sent by the Department for Education to local authorities and seen by the Observer, 82,000 parents entitled to the extra childcare have not yet secured a place for their three and four-year-olds. The offer, which doubles the current government-funded allowance, was a flagship Tory election pledge and is due to be implemented on Friday. But the policy appears to be mired in confusion amid claims of a funding shortfall and technical hitches.
According to new research given to the Observer by the early years shadow minister Tracy Brabin, three-quarters of childcare providers expect the policy to have a negative impact on their business and fewer than 7% say it will be positive. The same research claims that the scheme is underfunded, and that as many as one in three nurseries have not yet decided to offer any free places.
“I’m deeply concerned that many children won’t have access to the quality childcare they deserve – and that parents were promised,” said Brabin, who received 660 responses after she set up an online survey of childcare providers over the summer.
The Pre-School Learning Alliance estimates there is a 20% shortfall between the amount the government is giving local authorities to fund the scheme and the actual cost to nurseries. It said that some nurseries will have to close as a result, and some have already gone under. …”