Less than half of private, voluntary and independent childcare providers in inner London are planning to offer the Government’s extended 30 hours free childcare when it comes into effect later this year with those with more eligible children LESS likely to offer it, according to a new report.
The report by the 4in10 charity, based on a survey of 150 childcare settings, said 60% of private, voluntary and independent [PVI] early years settings across London said that they are planning to provide the 30 hours offer, but this falls to 44% of PVI settings in inner London.
It also found that a combination of financial pressures, including rising business rates, meant 75% of early years settings across London said that they were likely to raise their fees in the next 12 months.
With regard to the extension of free provision, the At what cost? The ‘free’ 30 hour childcare promise in London report found that just 12% of early years settings in inner London and 15% in outer London say that the hourly rate received for three- and four-year-olds will cover the cost of provision over the next financial year.
It says that early years settings with fewest children meeting the eligibility criteria are most likely to be planning to provide the 30 hours offer which it says suggests there will be a mismatch in demand for and supply of 30 hours places in London.
Some 11% of early years settings across London said that they have found providing the three- and four-year-old offer [of 15 hours free childcare] very challenging over the last two years, but 31% expect it to be very challenging over the next two years.
A third of early years settings across London said that they were unlikely or very unlikely to be offering more 15 hour free places for three- and four-year-olds in two years’ time.
Moreover, 92% of early years settings across London expect remaining financially viable to present some level of challenge over the next two years, with 52% expecting it to be very challenging.
Another problem is rising business rates. Some 58% of early years settings across London said that they expect the cost of business rates to be very challenging over the next two years.
The reports says that, in light of the fact that the early years funding formula is frozen until 2020 and the pressure to offer free places, many providers will struggle to remain viable and London families are likely to see a rise in already high childcare costs outside of the ‘free’ hours they receive, along with additional charges.
It says: “Some families eligible for the 30 hours offer may struggle to access the offer, while children from non-eligible families may find it harder to access 15-hour places.”
It warns that quality of childcare may also be affected. It states: “Childcare is critical for businesses to recruit and retain parents in the workforce, and while the 30 hours offer is clearly intended to encourage more parents back into work, without careful monitoring and intervention where needed the policy could threaten instead of enabling parental employment in the capital.”
It calls for the Mayor to step in and work with local authorities, early years providers and other stakeholders to monitor and support the childcare market.
The report includes a series of recommendations. It calls, for instance, for local authorities to monitor the impact of the 30 hours offer on sufficiency of 15 hour places for ineligible threeand four-year-olds to ensure that access to quality ‘free’ childcare is not reduced for these families.
It also calls on the GLA to undertake research to explore the capacity and intentions of childminders to contribute to the 30 hours offer in London.
It says the Mayor of London should work with business, independent funders, local authorities and other stakeholders to offer grants for play equipment and resources for early years settings in disadvantaged communities.
And in terms of business support for providers it says local authorities should ensure that early education and childcare providers have information as soon as possible on funding rates so that providers have adequate information to plan for the 30 hours offer rollout and that collaboration between early years providers of all types should be fostered through speeddating style networking events to encourage blended provision of the 30 hours offer.