News

It’s arrived - Providers share 30-hours commendation and condemnation

Long awaited and much maligned by the sector, the 30-hour funded entitlement was rolled out across England on September 1. Here are just some of your experiences and those from providers, practitioners and other stakeholders across social media

Social media has been buzzing with questions, comments and complaints about the entitlement, but some providers are happy.

Jo-Anne Keenan told Childminder Talk on Facebook: “I’ve offered the funding before, and I’m happy to do it again. I’ve had a couple of hiccups with the new system – access to my page had not been set up correctly for one – but it all seems OK now. I’m pleased to see the payments are changed to monthly too.”

Yorkshire childminder Sharon Cox is also positive. She posted: “I do funding for five of my children and it will go up to eight in January. I’ve found it a headache putting them all on the system but I’ve not had serious problems with it.” By September 15 she had been paid for her three- and four-year olds and was just waiting for the two-year olds’ payments. “The amount of funding for the hour is more than what I’m charging, so I haven’t had to add expenses on for outings, meals etc.,” she added. “I’m happy with it mostly.”

There is an upbeat vibe in Nottinghamshire too. “I’ve been paid and I’m a lot better off in my area,” said Nicola Bradshaw of Home from Home Childminding in Hucknall. “I love it. I have spaces coming up soon and would like it to be 30-hours children that fill them.”

Portal problems

Not everyone has been paid so promptly though. Shrewsbury childminder Cheryl Potter posted on September 15: “I haven’t been paid even though I got all my information into my local authority on time. I will now have to wait until November to be paid for this half term; I am effectively working for half price for two of my children at the moment.”

Problems with computer systems have been commonplace and many have taken to social media to express their concerns. “Here in Northamptonshire, the online portal has been causing some problems,” Steve Hale reported in early September and it was a similar picture further north. “I had problems with the portal here in County Durham,” Carol Woodhead said. “I will see what happens next time I need to submit the estimated hours.” And even Bradshaw in Nottinghamshire admits “I don’t find the portal that easy to use.”

It has been widely related in the national press that settings are closing because they can’t afford to offer the funded hours. But the headlines have mainly been about long-established nurseries and popular pre-schools with few column inches given to the plight of childminders.

No entitlement

So we asked you via our Childminder Talk forum on Facebook how you are managing the new challenge. Some of our readers have told us they will not be offering the funded entitlement. “I shan’t be offering the 30 hours,” says Rachel Pocknell of Sunnyside Childcare in Essex. “I feel that it is wrong to mis-sell it as ‘free’. Until the government renames it as ‘subsidised,’ I shall not be offering it and having to ask the parents to pay for extras.”

Oxfordshire childminder Naomi Dixon will not be offering the entitlement either as she believes it is “not worth it” and others have admitted they will have to charge for extras or non-funded hours. “We are offering the 30-hours,” says Hale, but we will be charging extra for the non-funded hours. I’m not sure who we will do it in the spring term though as there are not many funded hours!”

Others have not yet been asked by the families they work with to provide the new entitlement places, but have already made up their minds in they are approached. “I haven’t been asked to do any funding,” says Kathryn Mann, a childminder from Chesterfield. “But I wouldn’t anyway; I’ve heard too many people…say they don’t get paid very often and in a lot of areas you only get paid every three months and usually less than we charge.”

Blended solutions

Praise for the resilience and resourcefulness of the early-years sector is often heard from corridors of power in Westminster to the seminars of Childcare Expo in the West Midlands. Those qualities are certainly being put to the test in England now and, as ever, it seems providers are coming up with novel solutions. Devon childminder Clare Duval says: “I am going to offer it for a year and see how it goes. Most of my children will either attend nursery on days that they are not here or not go until after Christmas and even then just one day. I have a daily extras fee for funded children…to be able still to offer as much flexibility as possible.”

As ever, most practitioners want to be as helpful as possible for the families they work with and this is at the heart of their offer. Ginnette Hall in Ripon is offering the funded entitlement, “however, the hours are split with me and nursery,” she explains. “I put up the fees slightly across the board before it [30-hours funded entitlement] started and I’m charging for extras for the funded children only. I am still remaining flexible for the hours that parents need me.” Tracy Graham in South Gloucestershire is in a similar position having always offered 15 hours. “Now I have two children on 30 hours and both children share hours between me and pre-school,” she posted.

In Dartmoor, Nikki Bush has registered to offer funded places. “But only to help out one of my mums who is single and has two boys who I had just after school,” she stresses. “The youngest is in nursery and they are not offering the extended entitlement so I am now having him one full day a week and three for just after school. I’m not really looking to take others on.”

Any registered childminder can join the debate and enjoy advice and support from other registered childminders at www.facebook.com/groups/childmindertalk/

Autumn 2017

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