Agenda item

Thirty Hours Free Childcare (The Extended Entitlement)

(To receive a report which shares Lincolnshire's position on the thirty hours funded childcare entitlement, including sufficiency to support this national agenda)


Consideration was given to a report which shared Lincolnshire's position on the thirty hours funded childcare entitlement including sufficiency to support this national agenda.  Members were advised that this initiative was about supporting families at work with childcare costs or supporting parents back into work.


It was highlighted that with child care it could be difficult to predict sufficiency needs as it was not always known whether parents would choose to go back to work and so it was a very complicated calculation.  A sufficiency assessment had been undertaken which had given confidence that there were sufficient placements within the county to be able to meet demand.


It was reported that numbers would be lower in the autumn but would gradually build up through the year with a peak in the summer months.  Members were advised that this was due to parents gradually building up their child top the full provision.


Members were provided with the opportunity to ask questions to the officers present in relation to the information contained within the report and some of the points raised during discussion included the following;

·         It was clarified that an exempt school was one which did not need to register with Ofsted separately for child care as it was already providing education on the school site.  It was noted that the legislation had changed which required early years and child care providers to register with Ofsted.

·         It was noted that the legislation relating to child minders who delivered care in a child's home was slightly different.

·         It was noted that there were 45 providers who were not delivering the thirty hours, and it was queried whether there was a link between them geographically or was there a lack of places.  It was noted that these may have constraints on location so they cannot provide thirty hours, for example they may be using village halls.  It was also reported that the child care market often changed and there could be less demand in some places.  It was also noted that maternity leave could last for up to one year, and then when the end of the maternity leave approaches, parents could put their child's name down at two or three places before choosing which one they wanted.

·         It was queried how well the providers were coping with the extension to the entitlement and whether it was having any negative financial impact.

·         It was noted that the previous entitlement was 15 hours and parents may have opted to have 3 hours per morning and parents may then choose to access more than the 15 hours and would pay the market rate for the additional hours.  It was also noted that in good and outstanding settings staff would often provide additionality to attract parents to their provision.

·         Members were advised that this scheme was about getting parents back to work and there was a base rate payment of £3.82 to provide child care and education, if a setting wanted to provide additional services e.g. lunch, parents would need to pay for this.

·         It was suggested that there was a feeling that some settings were charging for extras to mitigate the impact of the 30 hours free childcare.  It was also commented that there had been reports that some settings were informing parents that they had to pay for the extras in order to maintain their place.  However, it was noted that which setting a child attended was parental choice, and they could leave if they were not happy with the care being provided.  Any extras such as snacks would need to be charged for with the agreement of parents, but a provider would need to allow a parent the option of bringing their own.

·         One member commented that she had not had any residents coming to her with concerns about this scheme.

·         It was queried whether officers were satisfied with the quality of care across the board or if there were any areas with too many providers.  Members were advised that the quality of provision was increasing everywhere.  The authority could offer a support package and if any child care provider was judged as less than good they would be contacted as soon as the Ofsted report was published so they could respond to any recommendations.  A team would then work with the provider over a fixed time based process to improve the quality.  The percentage of providers rated as good or outstanding was increasing each year.

·         It was queried whether parents came to the Council with reports of poor care.  Members were advised that parents would be required to contact Ofsted first to report their concerns, the authority received a termly update from Ofsted so would be made aware of any concerns.  The authority was not able to make a third party complaint.

·         It was suggested that this entitlement should not be referred to as free childcare, but maybe subsidised or sponsored instead.

·         One member commented that different providers had different offers in terms of what they would provide, and parents could 'shop around' to find the provision that worked best for them, but parents did have choices.  He also reported that from personal experience, he had found the policy very positive as it had allowed him and his wife to both return to work full time.  He advised that the Gateway was easy to use and they had not experienced any problems and overall this approach was welcomed.




            That the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee endorse the local authority's approach to securing sufficient funded education places for eligible children.



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