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Early years minister Caroline Dinenage has announced plans for a £50m capital grants fund to help deliver the 30 hours of ‘free’ childcare being brought in this September.
However Neil Leitch, chief executive of Pre-School Learning Alliance criticised the extra funding as a “drip-feed approach to early years investment”.
The new funding is a double up on the Government’s original investment of £50m announced in January, creating £100m in total. The capital grants are designed to upgrade facilities and create new buildings, and it is hoped that 9,000 extra places will be generated by this funding.
Ms Dinenage said: “In my visits around the country I have heard from families whose lives have been improved by access to 30 hours. As part of our Plan for Britain, we want to make this a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few, so that means removing the barriers facing parents struggling to balance their jobs with the cost of childcare.”
In addition to the extra £50m, a pot of £5m has been set aside to go towards helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with additional needs. A further £5m of Government capital expenditure funding is to go towards the 12 newly created ‘opportunity areas’ recently announced by the Education Secretary.
Since it was announced in 2015, the Government’s 30 hour free childcare scheme has created a lot of interest within the childcare sector. There have been concerns in some quarters about whether money put aside would be substantial enough for such seismic change.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, stated: "While extra funding to support the 30-hour offer is, of course, welcome, a further 9000 childcare places for a scheme that Government says requires 390,000 in total – and we estimate requires 500,000 – simply isn’t going to address the very valid concerns that have been raised about the viability of the scheme.
"With less than half of childcare providers currently committed to delivering 30-hours places, and many of those opting into the scheme considering limiting the number of places they deliver, we know that capacity is going to be a real issue when the offer rolls out in September – and the fact that this additional money has now been found suggests the Government does too.
"Instead of adopting a drip-feed approach to early years investment, where relatively small pots of funding that can only ever have a limited impact on the sustainability of the sector are announced every few months, Government needs to look at the so-called ‘free entitlement’ offer as a whole and honestly reflect on how – and if – it can be funded properly over the long term.”
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said: “Parents and providers will rightly be asking why this policy still isn’t ready with only a few months to go until the roll-out of the 30 hours offer.
“The Tories’ inability to properly plan for their childcare promise has led to chaos and confusion throughout the sector. The constant re-announcements of a few more places here and there make it clear that they still don’t have a clue how to deliver on this key election commitment.”
Kate Fitch, head of public policy for national disability charity, Sense, stated: “With this latest pot of funding promising to help nurseries, pre-schools and playgroups make the building and facility upgrades needed to adopt the new policy, it is vital that the Government makes inclusivity and accessibility for disabled children a priority, in order to ensure that early education and play are truly available for all."