Thousands of parents yet to receive 30 hours childcare confirmation

By Nina Jacobs

| 15 January 2018

Nearly 60,000 eligibility codes for the second term of the government's 30 hours free childcare initiative have yet to be validated, government figures show.

The Pre-school Learning Alliance has raised concerns about varying rates of confirmation of eligibility codes in different areas. Picture: Pre-school Learning Alliance

Statistics published by the Department for Education (DfE) show that 326,068 codes were issued by 8 January for the current spring term, which began this month, of which 266,494 have been validated, which equates to 82 per cent.

While the statistics indicate the DfE has met its intended target of issuing 310,000 codes for the spring term, there has been a decline in the number of codes validated as a percentage of codes issued.

Statistics published in December showed that a total of 224,885 eligibility codes were issued to parents for the autumn term, of which 210,863 (94 per cent) were validated.

Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (Pacey) has called on government to commit to providing more data on the actual take-up of places and to challenge local authorities where take-up is low.

"It is still early days for the roll-out of the 30 hours offer, but there is a mixed picture concerning implementation," said Bayram.

"In particular, the government should consider how improved funding levels to providers in some areas could support the creation of more places, and crack down on those local authorities who are still creating unnecessary red tape for providers to battle through if they want to deliver these places.

"Only by working together can we ensure all families who want a place can secure one for their child."

The new DfE figures highlight ongoing regional differences in the number of eligible parents able to secure a childcare place. In Derbyshire 59 per cent of the 4,962 codes issued were validated, compared with 98 per cent in Bath and North East Somerset.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said the statistics continue to show a significant variation between local authorities.

"It's not fair that parents in two in five local authorities are less likely to find a funded childcare place than their neighbours, or that technical issues continue to prevent families accessing the funded childcare they're entitled to," he said.

"We take no pleasure in this situation, but childcare providers have repeatedly warned ministers that underfunding would lead to this. Unfortunately, these problems will only worsen as more children become eligible this term and next.

"But nothing will change until ministers shift the burden of delivering funded childcare from parents and providers back onto the government which has implemented this policy, by ensuring the cost of ‘free' childcare is met by adequate funding."

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