Liz Bayram, Chief Executive, Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years
The introduction of 30 hours funded childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds in September this year, could have a huge (and favourable) impact on your pocket and a knock-on effect on your household budget.
But with 30 hours comes confusion – what exactly are you entitled to? Who can you use your hours with? What is included? Are these hours really free? Here I am going to attempt to clarify the changes happening and what it means for you.
So let’s start with the basics. From September if you are a parent of a three- or four-year old in England, and you earn at least £120 per week and no more than £100,000 per year, you will be entitled to 30 hours per week of government-funded childcare during term time (38 weeks). These can be ‘stretched’ across the year to include school holidays and weekends – so you can use them all year round.
The beauty about 30 hours is you can take up a funded place with any provider on Ofsted’s Early Years Register, so that includes childminders, day nurseries, playgroups, pre-schools and nursery schools.
You do have to apply to get the entitlement (more details at the bottom of this blog) but once up and running you can split your hours across two different providers each day, so for example, you could choose a childminder and a nursery or pre-school.
When it comes to choosing childcare, handing over your precious offspring to a relative stranger can be heart-wrenching. But make the right choice, and you not only get peace of mind that your little one is being well looked after, but also that they get the best start in life. Do consider childminding as a flexible, home-based and high quality childcare option. Childminders are often overlooked, or misunderstood, but actually for a lot of children that home-from-home setting is the perfect environment for them to thrive.
At this point I should add that childminders are not ‘babysitters’ (!) even though sadly this is how they are often depicted. The truth is, registered childminders meet the same requirements for quality and procedures as nurseries. They are inspected by Ofsted, and they offer the same early education, the difference is they just provide care from their own home. Many childminders also work with other childminders and assistants – so often they can feel like ‘mini nurseries’, but with personalised care. In fact, 92% of childminders are now rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ from Ofsted. Recent research has shown that childminders have a particularly positive impact on young children’s language and cognitive development.
Whoever you choose to care for your children, you won’t be able to use your funded hours round the clock. It is up to them to choose when they offer funded places – but generally it would be between 6am and 8pm. If you do need flexible childcare then a childminder is definitely worth considering, because early starts, pick up and drops off are often part of their package and you will get a truly personal approach because they only look after small groups of children.
So is there a catch to 30 hours? The two things you need to consider are firstly, not every childcare provider will offer funded places, so it is worth starting your childcare search sooner rather than later.
Secondly, the funded places aren’t technically free. The rate that your childcare provider receives for delivering funded places does not include things like meals, snacks, nappies, wipes, etc. Neither does it cover additional services like outings, classes, emergency cover etc. So there may be extra charges.
As a parent while there will be some costs, in the grand scheme of things the money you will spend is minimal versus the potential amount you will save on childcare, so do make the most of it.
For further information to help you with choosing childcare go to https://www.pacey.org.uk/parents/choosing-great-childcare/
Apply for 30-hour entitlement through the Government’s childcare service the term before you plan to start receiving it: www.childcarechoices.gov.uk.
For more information about PACEY, including activity and home learning ideas, go to www.pacey.org.uk