A key plan to expand free childcare will “absolutely guarantee” the closure of more nurseries, the departure of staff and a fall in places if there is not a substantial increase in the funding behind it, Jeremy Hunt has been warned.An eye-catching pledge for a huge expansion of free childcare provision was a main giveaway in the chancellor’s budget last week.
However, while childcare providers have welcomed extra help for parents, nurseries across England, speaking to the Observer, said that the plan risked having a “catastrophic” impact on the sector without an overhauling of central funding.“This will be the end of nurseries,” said Mel Hart, owner of Albion House nursery and the Old School nursery in Grantham, Lincolnshire. “We are already underfunded by approximately £2.50 per hour, per child for the three and four-year-olds.
Over 5,000 nurseries are said to have closed in the last year. If more are struggling financially, more will also close. Then there will be nowhere for children to go so that parents can go to work.”The budget plan will see 30 hours a week of free childcare given to all children aged from nine months to four years, though its introduction will be staggered.
At present, parents of three and four-year-olds can claim 15 or 30 hours of free childcare, depending on their circumstances.Hunt promised an increase of free hours funding of £204m from this September, eventually rising to £288m next year.Read more on theguardian.com