PARENTS are being forced to pay for their children’s meals, nappies and trips while at nursery due to government under-funding of its flagship childcare scheme, an educational charity warned today.
Last September, the government pledged to provide 30 hours of free childcare — double the amount previously on offer — to parents that met the earnings threshold.
But a study by charity the Pre-School Learning Alliance has found that only a third of childcare providers giving out the 30-hour scheme are delivering the offer free to all parents.
And 40 per cent said that they have introduced, or increased, charges for additional goods and services as a result of the scheme.
The survey, which questioned 1,662 nurseries, pre-schools and childminders, follows warnings from childcare providers that the current levels of funding are too low, meaning they have had to get parents to foot the bill.
Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch said: “Respondents have laid out in black and white that the 30-hours policy is simply not working, with a continued lack of adequate funding leaving many with no option but to pass the funding shortfall on to parents.
“This has left parents to pay the price for government underfunding through often unexpected charges for things like nappies, food and trips, while the government continues to claim that it’s delivering on its promise of ‘free’ childcare.”
Chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association Purnima Tanuku said the government needs to be honest with providers and parents.
She said: “In asking for charges for meals and other extras, nurseries find themselves in a very difficult position. They need to make these charges to remain sustainable but the DfE guidelines state that these payments must be voluntary. Nurseries should not be put in this position.”
Shadow minister for early years Tracy Brabin said: “The government’s underfunding of such an important policy has left providers with no choice but to shift costs onto parents and the funding shortfall is already causing damage with providers leaving the sector at an alarming rate.”
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