Concerns raised about wraparound care plans

Wraparound care providers are worried the Government’s plans won’t address the fundamental problems within the sector.

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Out of hours childcare providers have raised concerns about the Government’s plans for funding wraparound childcare because they don’t appear to address parents’ ability to pay for care or to support existing providers.

In the Budget the Chancellor announced that it will give local authorities in England £289 million over two academic years, starting in September 2024, in start-up funding to enable schools and local authorities “to test options to increase the availability of wraparound childcare in the longer term”. The Department for Education also talks about “a national pathfinder programme to encourage school-based wraparound provision for school-aged children, between 8am-6pm”.

The Out of School Alliance, a membership organisation representing thousands of out of school providers in England, welcomed investment in wraparound care “after more than a decade of Government inattention, with caution”. Their main concerns are that it doesn’t start until next September, it seems to be directed as schools setting up their own provision rather than existing providers, it could drive down the quality of care and it doesn’t address parents’ ability to pay.

The Alliance has previously spoken to about the parlous state many out of school providers find themselves in, with problems over recruiting staff, schools competing to take over care to boost their budgets and established care providers being driven out existing businesses.

It feels the Government is not listening to providers about the problems they are facing and remarked that the announcement seemed to be “tagged on” to the much larger commitment to early years childcare. It stated: “A family’s childcare needs don’t stop when a child starts school. One of the reasons that demand is currently outstripping supply is because wraparound providers are closing in significant numbers due to exceptionally challenging working conditions. The risks wraparound providers are expected to take would not be tolerated in any other industry; constant threat of schools taking over, insufficient support for parental fees, lack of support from any statutory service, and the list goes on.”

It adds: “Investing in Local Authorities to fill perceived gaps in availability of out of school provision must come with a focus on and investment in the existing market of dedicated, high quality out of school providers. Taking action which would further destabilise an already vulnerable sector by focusing only on schools is irresponsible and a waste of taxpayer funds. Schools are unlikely to have the space, staff, desire or demand to run out of school care on top of their existing responsibilities, regardless of any start-up funding offered. We have a sector who have already
started up and are still struggling; more start-up funding is not the answer.”

Calling the  £289 million ‘a drop in the ocean of what a gap-filling programme is likely to cost in the real world’, the Alliance states: “Without support for families to pay for the services created by this fund, or parallel investment in supporting out of school businesses delivering these vital services to maintain lower costs to families through supply side funding, this investment will once again prove a sticking plaster solution delivered too little, too late.”

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