Fewer than half of nurseries can implement free childcare boost

26 February 2016

The Government has pledged to double the amount of free childcare for three and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30, however The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has claimed only 45% of a sample of 485 nurseries said they would be implementing the plan.

NDNA chief executive responded to the initial announcements in the 2015 Spending Review for additional funding, saying:

“We are pleased the Government has listened to our campaigning for better levels of funding. Despite the tough fiscal climate, the childcare sector is receiving more money. This is a welcome step.

The sector is now looking carefully at the details to establish whether the increase is sufficient to support the Government’s ambitious promise of 30 hours’ free childcare to working parents. The Government must work to make sure that every penny secured for early years goes straight to the frontline of childcare. That means protecting the funding by ring-fencing it so local authorities, who we know are under pressure with increasing demands on their education funding, pass it all on to nurseries and childminders.

We also need to know that this uplift must not stay still. It must continue to increase to keep pace with the financial pressures of the sector, including the introduction of the National Living Wage in April and pensions auto enrolment. It cannot be a one-off.”

Politics Home reported recently that the NDNA, which represents more than 5,000 of the UK's 18,000 nurseries, said 89% were already making a loss providing the free 15 hours. NDNA chief executive said that serious funding shortfalls stand in the way of nurseries getting on board, despite their desire to help families with free childcare and that private, voluntary and independent nurseries deliver most of the government's free places. The nursery sector is reluctant to commit to offering more free hours when they already make a significant annual loss - an average of £34,000 per nursery - on the funded places they currently provide.

Education Minister Sam Gyimah is reported as insisting the Government is providing enough funding to incentivise providers.