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Nearly all local authorities across England will receive new Government grants to support the delivery of 30-hours childcare for three- and four-year-olds, however some councils will receive less than £20,000.
The new fund, totalling £7,301,950, is being made available to support delivery of places for the 2018 summer term, as more children become eligible for the scheme.
However Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, says ensuring sufficient 30-hours places for the summer term is going to be a 'real challenge'.
He said: “While local authorities are likely to welcome any financial support they can get from Government, the fact is that this funding, which in the vast majority of areas amounts to less than £100,000, can only ever have a limited impact on councils’ - and providers’- ability to deliver the 30-hour offer in a sustainable way.”
The bidding process for the Delivery Support Fund (DSF) was first announced in November 2017, after the Government said it was ‘aware’ of the pressure the 30-hours would put on some local authorities and providers in the first year.
Out of the 147 local authorities receiving grants, the highest allocation of £130,699 has gone to Kingston and Richmond, followed by Leeds with £105,000, and Suffolk County Council with £101,406. Wokingham has the lowest allocation of just £16,900.
Mr Leitch added: “It’s clear from the decision to create the Delivery Support Fund that the Department for Education is all too aware that ensuring sufficient 30 hours places for the summer term is going to be a real challenge. Rather than tinkering around the edges with ad hoc pots of funding to councils, the Government needs to tackle the root cause of sufficiency problems: insufficient funding for frontline providers.
“With key costs like wages and business rates set to increase next month, but many providers seeing little to no change in funding rates, the situation is only going to get worse unless the Government takes action soon.”
The Department for Education (DfE) said that to ensure the fund is invested where it is needed most, councils bid for support that would help meet their individual challenges and enhance their delivery of 30 hours in the summer term and beyond. The DfE said that the vast majority of councils would benefit from funding for projects as all councils that submitted an application in the bid round will receive a grant.
The summer term is crucial as demand for 30 hours will be at its highest as more children become eligible as they turn three, as well as increasing parental awareness of the 30 hours offer. Parents of eligible children are urged to apply now for a place for the summer term.
Minister for Children and Families, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “We are investing record amounts in childcare as we continue to help hundreds of thousands of families access high-quality, affordable childcare – supporting parents go back to work or increase their hours without worrying about the cost.
“The Delivery Support Fund will help councils work with childminders, nurseries and preschools in the local area to further boost delivery of the 30 hours free childcare offer. Thanks to the hard work of early years professionals who are making the first year a success, parents are already seeing the benefits of the scheme, with more money in their pockets and support in balancing work and family lives.”
For more information on ‘30 hours delivery support fund: grants for local authorities’ go to: www.gov.uk/government/publications/30-hours-delivery-support-fund-grants-for-local-authorities