Councillors have warned that nursery provision in Suffolk is in crisis, and have raised serious questions over the amount of funding that childcare providers receive from Suffolk County Council.
Speaking in support of a Labour motion at the Council meeting on 19 October 2017, Cllr Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw (LDGI Group Spokesperson for Children’s Services and Education) stated:
“I am a passionate supporter of 30 hour childcare for working families. But the way this policy has been rolled out by the government threatens all pre-school child provision in our communities. Most providers I have spoken to are struggling to give quality childcare on the £3.87 per hour they receive from Suffolk County Council. Many are not able to offer the full 30 hours because of this, and consequently parents are not receiving the childcare they are supposedly entitled to.
The whole system simply does not work and, unless funding for childcare providers increases dramatically, we will soon be facing a crisis in Suffolk.”
The motion called on the Council to commit to passing on 100% of the funding received directly to childcare providers. Unfortunately, nearly all Conservative councillors decided to vote against the motion, denying these providers the financial support they so desperately need.
Currently, childcare providers in Suffolk receive only £3.87 per hour, which many say simply isn’t enough to fund the quality childcare that they provide. However, since working parents are entitled to 30 hours of “free” childcare, providers are not able to make up the shortfall in funding from anywhere else. As a result, many are facing huge uncertainty over the future viability of their businesses, and we could soon find ourselves in a situation where there simply aren’t enough nursery places in Suffolk.
To make matters worse, Suffolk County Council currently retains 6.3% (approximately £2m) of the funding provided by central government. Whilst this is within the 7% limit permitted by the Department for Education, the LDGI Group questioned whether it was the right thing to do given the financial pressures providers are facing.
There is an unacceptable lack of transparency on what this £2m will be spent on. If Suffolk County Council insist on keeping this level of funding when childcare providers are so clearly struggling to keep their businesses afloat, the least they could do is provide some clarity on how it is being spent.
The full text of Labour’s motion read as follows:
“This Council welcomes the extension of state provision of childcare from 15 to 30 hours and will do everything it can to ensure that all parents, carers and providers who qualify can access this much-needed support, but notes
- That the level of funding provided by central government does not cover the full cost of provision and is likely to lead to a further reduction in the number of childcare providers;
- That the reduction in the number of providers will lead to a decrease in the life chances of Suffolk’s children thereby increasing the costs of local authority intervention at primary school; and
- That because many providers are choosing not to deliver the free 30 hours many parents in Suffolk will be unable to access the support promised.
Therefore, this Council will
- Lobby government to change the Early Years National Funding Formula to make it fairer to providers and parents;
- Pass the full hourly rate that this Council currently receives from government to childcare providers;
- Ensure that all parents have access to the full 30 hours regardless of their location in Suffolk.”