12 October 2017
Free childcare scheme might not compete with paid-for places
Access to 30 hours' free childcare needs to be properly funded if it is to compete with paid-for nursery and childminder places, industry leaders are warning.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, says childcare providers may be forced to give priority to parents who can pay for additional hours and extras - such as meals or trips - if the Government does not provide adequate funding to cover the cost of places.
In a speech at a lobby on concerns about the 30 hours scheme, Mr Leitch said: "If a child's parents are willing and able to pay their nursery, pre-school, or childminder a bit extra, they might well get pushed to the front of the queue when it comes to a childcare place."
He says childminders and nurseries who are asked to choose between a highly paid childcare place and a free place are realistically going to opt for the child that brings in the most income.
"I think we all know who's going to the back of the queue," he added.
The new initiative which launched in September, has doubled the amount of free childcare offered to parents of three- and four-year-olds, from 15 free hours per week to 30.
To qualify for the initiative, both parents must be working more than 16 hours each week and earning at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage.
Parents on maternity, paternity, adoption, parental or sick leave may also be eligible.