It’s not all good news though. Nurseries are full, spaces are tight and after the effects of the March budget kick in demand will climb even higher. Yet childcare providers are in the midst of a staffing crisis and the number of providers across the country is reducing year on year.
In South and East Cambs most nurseries have a waiting list of between 12 and 24 months. Over the past year we have spoken to many families who booked into one or two settings only to have their spaces cancelled close to their start date when the provider couldn’t recruit staff.
Extra help with childcare
Any help is better than none, but….. The additional money for childcare doesn’t start until April 2024 and will not be fully implemented until September 2025. If you want to benefit from then your baby must be conceived now. Families are stretched nearly to breaking point by paying for childcare, they need help now, not 2 and a half years away.
Is it Free?
Sadly not, the amount paid to nurseries per place is less than it costs them to deliver it. This is not sustainable. If only Cambridgeshire would follow Suffolk County Council and refer to Nursery Education Funding as a subsidy, that’s the correct picture and ensures that parents understand the true picture. Even the governments own figures recognise this, although it took many months and a Freedom of Information request to discover this.
30 hours childcare a week?
Again, it’s not 30 hours every week, only for select weeks. It’s 30 hours a week over school term times, or 38 weeks a year to the majority of working parents. That means it’s actually 22 hours a week over a 52 week year. ‘30 hours a week’ just sounds better if you are the people in power, never mind that to qualify both parents have to be working!
Photo by Lina Kivaka
Why should a country support it’s Early Years?
For most children, attending an Early Years setting helps them to develop better than they would if they didn’t attend one. This isn’t true for every family but it is for the majority, in the same way that schools suit most childcare and families better than home schooling. The benefits to families where both parents work pays dividends for the lifetimes of both the parents and the children.
It is in the country’s interest to support parents back to work. Apart from the fiscal incentives of the parents paying tax and national insurance, the employer is also paying national insurance. The country’s productivity levels going up, corporation tax income increases and all the incidental spends by individuals and companies also go up. Overall, it makes means money for the country which means better services for its population.
The Office for Budget Responsibility says that of all the measures announced in March’s budget, childcare support will have the biggest economic output. Yet the funding is still inadequate and parents and early years providers continue to press for a fairer system.