London nurseries warns free childcare plan 'not funded correctly'

Children playing in sandbox
Parents welcome more funded hours but providers are concerned about costs [BBC]

Childcare providers in London are warning the government's expansion of free nursery hours will leave them struggling to cover costs because it "has not been funded correctly".

Working parents of two-year-olds will be entitled to 15 hours of free childcare per week from April.

A London nursery group said the funding for the plan was insufficient.

The government said it was confident the childcare market was strong enough to deliver the huge expansion.

June O'Sullivan, from London Early Years Foundation, which has 40 nurseries across the capital, welcomes an expansion of free childcare but said in its present state the plan would be ineffective "because it has not been funded correctly".

"If you think about the the idea of 'free' - it's not free. It is funded and the funding contribution from the government is insufficient," she said.

'Staffing crisis'

Sian Aiken said a partially-funded place for her two-year-old son would help alleviate the cost of living for their family.

"Just in terms of having that little bit more in my pocket, it will be more comfortable for me," she said.

Merita Selaci
Nursery manager Merita Selaci says there is a staffing "crisis" in the early years sector [BBC]

The help parents can get depends on the age of your child, and whether you are working, or receiving certain benefits.

Working parents can get:

  • 15 hours free childcare a week for two-year-olds from April 2024

  • 15 hours free childcare for nine month olds from September 2024

  • 30 hours free childcare for three and four-year-olds is already available

  • 30 hours free childcare for all under-5s from September 2025

To qualify for the new hours, the majority of parents must earn more than £8,670, but less than £100,000 per year.

Merita Selaci, manager of Marsham Street Nursery in central London, said recruitment continued to be an issue for the early years sector.

She said: "We all have issues with staffing, we had a crisis with staffing, it's so difficult not only to get them but also to retain the staff because of the cost of living."

Sian Aiken
Mum of a two-year-old boy, Sian Aiken, says the expanded hours will help with the cost of living [BBC]

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We are confident in the strength of our childcare market to deliver the largest-ever expansion in childcare in England's history, and we are already seeing providers looking to expand their placements across the country.

"The Institute for Fiscal Studies has independently reported that the average funding rates for two-year-olds and under twos paid by government from April 2024 are projected to be substantially higher than the market rate paid by parents last year.

"And we have committed to further increases to provider rates for the next two years, backed by an estimated £500m."

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