Are Blackpool parents picking up the tab for free care?
More parents in Blackpool are using the government-funded 30 hours a week of free childcare, according to official figures.
The scheme was introduced in autumn 2017 to provide additional free care for three and four-year-olds.
Latest figures show that, in the most recent autumn term, 605 children had taken up places, an increase of four per cent on the previous year.
The Pre-school Learning Alliance, which represents childcare providers, said underfunding that, for many parents, the childcare is not completely free and they end up “picking up the Government’s tab”.
A Department for Education survey found 19 per cent of families found it difficult or very difficult to pay for childcare. A fifth of parents did not realise that additional charges for meals, nappies and some activities could be made by childcare providers under the 30 hours scheme.
Pre-school Learning Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch said: “We know from a study the Government itself commissioned, for example, that over half of parents accessing 30 hours said they had to pay charges for additional items or activities.”
The 30-hours entitlement doubled the hours of free childcare for some parents. All parents are entitled to 570 hours a year but this was increased to 1,140 for some - the equivalent of 30 hours over 38 weeks of the standard school year. Parents can spread fewer hours over more weeks.
The scheme is open to families where both parents are working – or the sole parent is in work in a single parent household.
To quality, each parent must earn the equivalent of 16 hours per week at national minimum wage but less than £100,000.