The government has been criticised for underfunding a free childcare scheme, which entitles the parents of three- and four-year-old children to 30 hours of childcare during term time.
The Pre-School Learning Alliance and the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years say local authorities typically pay nurseries and childminders £4.27 an hour to provide the “free” care, leaving nurseries facing an average 18% annual shortfall in funds, and the average childminder out of pocket by more than £410 per child per year. Official Ofsted figures show over 1,000 nurseries and childminders have closed since 2015.
Research published in Nursery World reveals some nurseries are forced to take drastic measures to cover the cost of providing the scheme, including charging parents of children who are eligible for 30 hours of government-funded childcare £15 a day for lunch.
Hattie Shepherd, Food for Life policy officer commented:
‘We are very concerned that this policy is not being properly funded and that this may be impacting families’ ability to access healthy and nutritious food for their children while they are in childcare. This risks undermining the government’s own Childhood Obesity Plan. It is essential that the concerns of those working in the Early Years sector are heard to avoid them having to resort to counter-productive means to plug the gap they face in funding. The government should ensure this policy is properly funded, including the provision of healthy food for those that need it most.’
Food for Life support nurseries and children’s centers to serve good quality, nutritious food and support the babies and children in their care to develop good eating habits for life. Click here to read more.