Childcare funding increase - but will it be enough?

10 January 2018

Funding for Suffolk’s childcare providers is set to finally improve, but will it be enough?

Childcare providers are likely to receive an increased hourly funding rate of £4.00, a report from Suffolk County Council’s School Forum has revealed.

Providers in Suffolk and nationally have been warning of a crisis within the childcare industry for many months now, with countless businesses struggling to stay afloat due to a disgraceful lack of funding and support. The government’s policy of 30 hours free childcare for all eligible working families, announced in September 2017, has hit nurseries hard across the country. The scheme is severely underfunded, and it is the providers themselves who are being left to pick up the pieces. Unless funding improves, there is a real risk that nurseries will be forced to close and parents will be unable to access the childcare to which they are entitled.

Opposition councillors have welcomed the funding increase, but questioned whether it will be enough to prevent the crisis and why it could not have been resolved earlier.

Cllr Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw, Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group Spokesperson for Children’s Services and Education, commented:

“This is good news for childcare providers and families in Suffolk. It’s just a shame that it has taken the council this long to acknowledge the severe strain that our childcare providers are under.

Most providers I have spoken to are really struggling to give quality childcare on the £3.87 per hour they currently receive from Suffolk County Council, and we are reaching crisis point. The Government has expressed that all providers should receive an average funding rate of £4.00 per hour, and it is only right that we should bring our policy in line with this. However, this may not be enough, and it is vital that we continue to monitor the situation to ensure providers receive the support they need and deserve.”

This change follows an opposition motion from Labour in October 2017, supported by members of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group, which called on Suffolk County Council to increase the amount of funding that was passed on to providers. In 2017-18, the council centrally retained approximately £2 million (6.8%) of the funding received from the government, and providers received an hourly sum of £3.87.

Unfortunately, the Conservative majority refused listen to the concerns of providers, campaigners and councillors, and voted against the motion in October. They made it very clear that an increase in funding was not an option.

However, a paper which will appear before the Schools Forum on Thursday 11 January recommends that the base hourly rate for providers should increase to £4.00, whilst the amount retained by Suffolk County Council should reduce to 3.8%. Other changes include a new mechanism for distributing both disadvantage funding and the SEN inclusion fund.

  1. The full paper can be found at C – EY Proforma 2018-19

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