15 "free" hours of childcare

(147 Posts)
jdey1969 Sat 23-Mar-13 07:57:30

My son attends a nursery in Wimbledon. The term after he turned 3 years old, we received a reduced invoice from the nursery. However, I worked out that the reduced amount wasn't enough of a reduction for us to truly be getting 15 free hours. I queried this with the nursery and was told that they only reduce the bill by the amount that they receive from the Council, and not by the normal hourly rate that they charge. This is in effect a top up fee, which is forbidden.

I escalated my complaint to Merton Council who told me that if I persisted with my complaint, the nursery might be forced to close and then I'd have no childcare. I persisted in any case, as I don't like being threatened and complained directly to the Department of Education about Merton colluding with the nursery to find a loophole in the law i.e. by creating a 2-tier fee structure, they can claim they're not charging "top up fees".

Merton Council have now concluded a 3 month investigation. Merton Council have said that as the nursery only publish weekly and monthly fees, my conclusion that the hourly rate was simply the weekly rate/60 was not correct. Merton Council were satisfied that the nursery were refunding the amount that Merton had paid them (using the local funding formula) to me, so I was receiving 15 "free" hours of childcare at that rate. A provider was entitled to charge what they liked above the "free" entitlement.

What this means is that the Council could decide that they'd only provide funding to a nursery of 1p per hour, in which case my 15 "free" hours would be worth 15p per week during term time. What it also means is that parents who put their children in nursery for more than 15 hours are actually subsidising the 15 free hour scheme, by paying a higher rate than normal for those extra hours.

For example, if say your nursery charged £5 per hour for your child when they are 3, and you have your child in nursery for 60 hours per week, your bill would be £300 per week. Now, when the 1st school term starts after they're 3, you'd expect the bill to come down to 45 hours * £5= £225 per week. However, with a 2-tier fee structure, your nursery can say you were mistaken in the belief that you wer being charged an hourly rate of £5 per hour, actually, we've never charged for the 1st 15 hours, but we charge £6.66 per hour for the hours above the 15 hours. Your invoice is still £300 per week.

I am waiting to see what action if anything that the Department of Education will take against Merton Council, but for the time being, the government's commitment to 15 free hours of childcare for 3 and 4 year olds is untrue. Parents could end up no better off than when their child wasn't receiving any "free" hours at all. At best, it could be described as 15 reduced (at your Council's discretion) hours for 3 and 4 year olds.

OddBoots Sat 23-Mar-13 08:04:16

I agree that it is wrong, and the biggest wrong is that the councils are advertising free hours when they don't pay enough to cover the costs. The settings aren't following the rules but they have a stark choice of either 'bending' the rules or just not running the scheme.

Sirzy Sat 23-Mar-13 08:04:47

I think you are taking a rather simplistic view expecting it to be the normal "hourly" cost (although every nursery I know of charges by the session not the hour anyway)

The 'free' is only for the childcare NOT for any meals/snacks or other extras so when you break it down that way then it isn't going to be as simple as dividing the rate down to get the 15 hours free value. As private nurseries set their own charges I think expecting them to fund beyond what they are given as they cost per child is asking a lot anyway - if they did that then others would end up subsiding your childs free.

The only time it generally works out as perfectly 15 hours without paying anything is if you send the child to a pre school were it is 5 mornings or 5 afternoons.

jdey1969 Sat 23-Mar-13 08:41:08

Well, I'm waiting to see what the Department of Education has to say about this.

It's obviously grossly misleading for the Government to claim that I'm entitled to 15 free hours of childcare for my 3 year old, if it actually amounts to 15 (reduced by however much your Council deems appropriate and the nursery decides to pass on) hours of childcare for my 3 year old.

As a parent, I don't have and shouldn't need to have an in-depth knowledge of the nursery's financial state. All businesses have costs, however. These costs are known by the nursery in advance, so they can budget for them.

OddBoots Sat 23-Mar-13 08:51:55

I wish you luck (and I mean that, I'm not being sarcastic), of course the nurseries know their costs but they can't reduce them and the government won't meet them. Around here free places are usually only accessed in church halls with fixed 3 hour sessions run by charities, private settings just can't afford it.

sundaymondaytuesday Sat 23-Mar-13 08:58:10

My youngest ds attends a private nursery and he will soon receive his free 15 hours. I have already been sent the fee information and it is quite clear that if he continues to attend for 3 hours per morning there will be no charge to me. I am actually going to increase his hours by an hour a day will increase the fees by £7.50 per day but they have not put me under any pressure to top-up.

One private nursery made a song and dance about having to close because they couldn't afford to stay open unless they charged top-up fees. I see they are still going strong...

nannynick Sat 23-Mar-13 08:59:21

Free education, not childcare. So there are periods of time when education is not provided but childcare is provided, such as lunchtimes.

YANBU to complain. It should be 15 hours, not an amount of money. However providers may close if they can not pay their bills, so the money side does get involved at some point, such as by very high costs for the times outside of the funded hours.

Good luck with your complaint, it does seem unfair of Merton to be siding with the nursery, rather than supporting the nursery with managing their finances.

jdey1969 Sat 23-Mar-13 09:08:11

They could simply increase their fees across the board, couldn't they. I really don't see the difference between a nursery and any other business.

As a parent, I don't know how much the government is paying the local Council to fund these places, nor do I know how much the local Council is paying the nursery. The government could be fully funding all of the places, and the Council just claiming they're not. The system is ridiculous. It should have been obvious from the start that the Councils and nurseries would take a slice on the way between Government and parent.

trixymalixy Sat 23-Mar-13 09:13:23

The way it operates here is that you are entitled to 5 x3 hour free sessions a week. If your child just goes for 5x 3 hour sessions in a private nursery then you won't pay any extra. That only operates in school term times though, not through the summer or other holidays.

If you send your child for the whole day then you have to pay the daily rate and they refund you the hourly funding amount which is less than the nursery's hourly rate. My DD is in nursery 2 days a week, so we can only use 4 sessions, not the full amount.

If you don't like it then you are perfectly entitled to use a council run nursery, but that's not really practical for us as they only open at 9 am and if you are wanting your child to stay in the whole day then you also need to pay extra on top.

I think you'll get nowhere tbh as all the nurseries will operate similar systems. The private nurseries don't have to allow funded places at all, so I'd just take what you get if I were you.

Littlefish Sat 23-Mar-13 09:14:23

Jedi - well done. I absolutely applaud you for your tenacity. The 15 hours should be free. Parents should be able to access those 15 hours free of any other charges. I feel really strongly that settings should either abide by the rules and spirit of the funding, or not offer the funding at all.

insancerre Sat 23-Mar-13 09:21:25

it's not free 'childcare' it's free 'education'
it's meant to benefit your child not reduce your childcare costs
do you really expect the nursery to subsidise your childcare bills?

Sirzy Sat 23-Mar-13 09:24:08

They could simply increase their fees across the board, couldn't they

And how exactly is that going to help working parents?

jdey1969 Sat 23-Mar-13 09:25:49

trixymalixy. So if you saw an advert in a newspaper saying £15 off any purchases over £60 at a supermarket this week, and they only give you £10 off at the till, you'd be quite happy if they explained that they can't give you the advertised amount because of costs in the chain between advertiser and the supermaket?

The point here is that I'm not getting what is advertised, so I'm going back to the advertiser (the government in this case) to complain, as I would if I was being ripped off with any other purchase.

trixymalixy Sat 23-Mar-13 09:26:12

But she can access the 15 hours free. She'll be able to drop her DC off every morning at 9 and pick them up at 12 or from 12-3 I bet without incurring any further charges.

In reality that's not practical for most working parents so they will have to pay for further childcare. The nursery is a business, not a charity so they can charge what they like. If you don't like it then vote with your feet. good luck with finding somewhere that operates the system differently.

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 23-Mar-13 09:31:53

My daughters nursery just deduct the £1500 or so the council gives them from their normal fees. Seems perfectly reasonable to me. If you don't like this just move to another nursery.

MrsHeggulePoirot Sat 23-Mar-13 09:34:20

But you do get 15 hours free if you are your child to a nursery attached to a school. I am in Merton and that is what we have. Nurseries are expensive and have differing rates per hour. You can expect Merton to pay whatever your private nursery charge - there is funding available which is, an should be the same rate per hour. If they pay say £3 per hour for state provision then you should get £15 of your bill. If you choose to send your child to a private nursery then in my opinion you are lucky to get any money off your childcare at all.

We moved areas between DS and DD1 going to nursery. DS's nursery was attached to his primary school and he went mornings, other kids went for the afternoon. It was all free and very straightforward.

The area we are in now has no school based nursery classes at all, only private nurseries. We can't afford any top up fee for her nursery and so she does 3 hours a day, a mix of two mornings and three afternoons as that was the availability the nursery had. In order for us to incur no extra cost she takes a packed lunch/tea which she eats when the other children have their nursery meal and she does term time only. I was worried she would be left out by not having the same meals but neither she nor the other 3-4 year olds give a stuff.

Her nursery said they had not had anyone only doing the free hours before, most people topped up to fit in with work etc. We explained our situation and we came up with the packed lunch thing together. If we had had to pay we wouldn't have been able to send her so they would have lost out on the funding for her I guess?

jdey1969 Sat 23-Mar-13 11:03:33

Certainly for 2 year olds, the government says that they are paying local councils more than the normal nursery provider rate:-


Obviously, it's in local council's interests to say that they're not receiving adequate funding. Who to believe?

mrsbungle Sat 23-Mar-13 11:16:53

Interesting. Good for you challenging it. My dd goes to a private nursery 2 days per week.

I get the full 15 hours free. Her nursery do not count it in sessions, they just take 15 hours per week off my monthly bill.

daily rate is £42. They are open 10 hours per day so £4.20 per hour x 15 is taken off my bill each week.

cazzybabs Sat 23-Mar-13 11:27:38

Most nurseries round here don't offer the vouchers any more because of this!

You can get your 15 hours but you would have to go to a state nursery rather than a private nursery.

I would think private nurseries have different overheads to state nurseries.

nannynick Sat 23-Mar-13 14:13:29

Jdey, Merton: Early Years Funding, Provider Guide - worth reading some of the documents on this page, if not all of them. Did Merton already give you links to those when you complained - it's public info, so given the nature of your complaint I would have thought they would give you details of what they send to the childcare providers.

In the Terms&Conditions document, it gives the money values... I suspect the nursery would be in Band 2, though it depends if it is attached to a school. Band Two £3.85 (Childcare – more than 15 hr/wk and/or additional services purchased)

Read the Terms&Conditions document, Look at Appendix1, Annual Contract... I would wonder if the nursery has broken the contract - such as by not providing billing information clearly. Refer any concerns to the person detailed in the section titled Parent Concerns.

Hope that helps you take it further with Merton and DfE.

nannynick Sat 23-Mar-13 14:26:06

>Merton Council have now concluded a 3 month investigation. Merton Council have said that as the nursery only publish weekly and monthly fees, my conclusion that the hourly rate was simply the weekly rate/60 was not correct.

I do agree with the council in that respect. If the fees are given as monthly or weekly, then the yearly cost would include times which are unfunded. The funding only operates for certain weeks of the year (unless the provider is splitting things over a year). 60 is presumably the number of hours your child is in nursery per week.

The entitlement is 570 hours over a 1 year period (15 hours per week if spread over 38 weeks). Providers can do 11 hours per week over 50 weeks, for children who attend all year.

So if your child attends 60 hours a week, then if you deduct 11 hours from that, would the remaining hours at the usual nursery rate be what you are paying? Note: There may be additional payment for the other weeks in the year, depending on your contact with the nursery, as a year is not 50 weeks!

>Merton Council were satisfied that the nursery were refunding the amount that Merton had paid them (using the local funding formula) to me, so I was receiving 15 "free" hours of childcare at that rate.

But did the council say you were getting 570 hours of free education a year? That's the question really isn't it? As the nursery may be operating all year round, 15 hours is not the figure to look at, it's the annual hours.

>A provider was entitled to charge what they liked above the "free" entitlement.

Yes their usual nursery rates for everyone, regardless of if claiming any free entitlement, could be at at rate the nursery decides. Though it must apply to all parents, not just those accessing early years education entitlement. Least that is my understanding.

pizzaqueen Sat 23-Mar-13 14:42:08

It's not free childcare - it's preschool education.

Where I am you get 5x3hour sessions and can only use them in a state preschool, not a private childcare provider. You are very fortunate you can transfer the funding to your private nursery. In my local council this is not longer allowed and it going to cause us a big problem getting childcare to fit round working hours when my DS turns three.

I would let the issue lie personally otherwise you may find you are no longer able to use your funding at your chosen nursery.

forgottoremember Sat 23-Mar-13 16:37:28

It's all a total mess, as far as I can see!

According to my reading of the rules (have read them many times), you're absolutely in the right here, and your nursery and borough are blatantly and knowingly breaking the rules. This happens pretty much everywhere the costs of providing childcare at above the 'refund rate' the gvt gives.

The thing is, local councils have a duty to ensure 'sufficient childcare', and if they follow the rules, there's a good chance that some nurseries will close down. I think they're also very weak-kneed about this, and private nurseries lobby effectively for the preservation of a system that benefits them.

The nursery my children attend does everything by the book, and we genuinely get our free hours - 11.8/week, I think, as it's spread across more than the 38 funded weeks.

However, since there's a tiered fee system, according to ability to pay, ironically this means that the wealthiest 3 year olds get the largest discount (though they still pay more overall)...

(I can give you an even more egregious example of top-up fees than yours: there's a sessional nursery near us open for 3.75 hours/day, 38 weeks per year. It costs something like £35/day for 2 year olds. You'd expect - if the rules were being followed - that it would cost only £7/day once your child gets the free hours. But no, it's £25... what sort of a hourly rate should that work out as???!)

jdey1969 Sat 23-Mar-13 18:26:26

@nannynick. Yes, there were a number of complaints that I lodged with Merton Council about the nursery:-

i) The fees (I know it's only funded for term times by the way. I provided a simplified example otherwise it's quite confusing)

ii) Unclear billing (they were just providing a monthly fee without breakdown)

iii) Not asking us to fill out the parental declaration form

iv) The number of funded weeks wouldn't allow my son to get 570 free hours by the 1st anniversary

Merton Council's response was:-

i) The 1st 15 hours are funded at £3.70 (the rate that the council pays the nursery) and the remaining hours can be charged at any rate.

ii) They agree the billing is unclear and the nursery have been told to introduce an invoice which clearly shows the rate for the free hours and the rate for the unfunded hours

iii) Some parents including me weren't asked to fill out the parental declaration form. The nursery has been told to ensure that every parent is asked to fill out the declaration form each term in future.

iv) They are aware that Merton's previous manner of funding the early years by variable term time meant that some parents would receive more than 570 hours and some less than 570 hours and they're changing it in April so that all parents get 570 hours. They've promised I'll get 570 free hours in any case although how this will happen hasn't been clarified yet.

I was being charged a fixed fee every month, so I can work out the normal hourly rate from that and it's £5.05. The nursery is claiming that they charge £3.70 for the 1st 15 hours and £5.56 for any hours on top of that. The difference between those 2 rates can't be explained by telling me that my son's getting some food. That's £1.86 EVERY hour. He's not getting caviar for lunch.The other reason why I know that the nursery and the Council are lying over their claim that they've always had a 2-tier fee structure but just didn't advertise it, is that now that parents have received the new invoices, the fees they're being charged are different from what they were being charged on the old invoices. There are now a lot of angry parents.

I've read the terms & conditions that you linked to before lodging the complaint, but Merton did send me a copy in any case. The issue has been with the Department of Education since January, but they've had to wait for Merton to conclude their investigation. My local MP and the 3 councillors representing my ward are also on the case.

@pizzaqueen, the early years entitlement is funded for all 3 to 4 year olds, and the council have to ensure that there are sufficient places. If where you live there are sufficient places in schools then the Council has fulfilled it's obligation. However, most areas rely on private nurseries to provide some of the places. Sending your child to a private nursery is rather different from sending them to private school. State nurseries attached to schools are only open 15 hours per week which is only suitable for non-working parents. Private nurseries, nannies or childminders are a necessity for families where both parents work, not a luxury.

nannynick Sat 23-Mar-13 18:47:21

So is the main issue now that the billing is not clear and has not been clear in the past either? Plus that by your calculations the cost has increased (£5.05 to £5.56) for the unfunded hours, an increase that you were not told about? Does the contract allow for fee increases without any notice?

Not sure how this will ever get resolved. Maybe by refusing to pay the new increased fee and terminating your child's place at the nursery.

jdey1969 Sat 23-Mar-13 18:56:33

@nannynick. I've read your link again. It's been updated since when I last read it in January. Glad to see it's got the fees that Merton Council are passing on to the nursery in black and white now. Still don't know how much the government is paying Merton Council, however.

If nurseries are allowed to have a 2-tier fee structure and can charge what they like for the unfunded hours, the upshot of this is that working parents are subsidising parents who put their child in to nursery for 15 hours or less, and the more hours they work, the heavier they're subsidising it. A UK higher rate taxpayer, now pays higher tax, doesn't receive child benefit, pays some of the highest childcare costs in the world and subsidises parents who don't work.

OddBoots Sat 23-Mar-13 19:01:01

You said this morning

"They could simply increase their fees across the board, couldn't they. I really don't see the difference between a nursery and any other business."

It sounds like that is what they've done but they can't (however much they want to) get any more from the council so yes, the result is that parents using for more than 15h pay more.

jdey1969 Sat 23-Mar-13 19:01:09

@nannynick. I've not been invoiced whilst the investigation was underway, but from what the other parents told me, the invoices are now clear. The remaining issue is about the 2-tier fee structure.

Not sure how it will be resolved. My son's nursery is clearly not unique in not allowing 15 free hours at the normal provider rate and this has been going on for far too long. It'll be interesting to see what the DofE will say.

jdey1969 Sat 23-Mar-13 19:05:47

@Oddboots. So for working parents, the 15 free hours should read "15 free hours for unemployed mums who want a break from their kids, which you'll be paying for, on top of all the other taxes that are paying for their other benefits".

lljkk Sat 23-Mar-13 19:10:02

This is how DS nursery worked back in 2002 so it seems normal to me.
I've yet to encounter a nursery/preschool that isn't running on a shoestring, so I think that they have to juggle the money like this in order to make ends meet.

OddBoots Sat 23-Mar-13 19:15:17

No, it's actually 570 hours per year of funded education accessed over a minimum of 38 weeks of the year for every child from the term after their 3rd birthday.

Some parents (working, studying, with other caring responsibilities, at home) can and do access it at private nurseries, some at pre-schools, some with childminders and some mix between them.

MrsHeggulePoirot Sat 23-Mar-13 19:20:29

@jdey1969 ". So for working parents, the 15 free hours should read "15 free hours for unemployed mums who want a break from their kids, which you'll be paying for, on top of all the other taxes that are paying for their other benefits"."

You aren't serious are you? I work, my daughter gets her 15 hours of education at a nursery attached to a primary school. This does not save me any money because I still have to pay a full day for my childminder to pick up and drop off as I work. I sent her because I thought it would be something she enjoyed. I didn't do it to get free childcare when I chose to work instead.

I agree that the billing unclearly isn't fair, but I also do not agree that you should just get 15 hours off your bill. If Merton pay £3.70 per hour yen your bill should simply be reduced by 3.70 x 15 x 38 spread across the weeks you use your nursery.

jdey1969 Sat 23-Mar-13 19:26:36

@MrsHeggulePoirot. In your situation, did your childminder hike her fees when you told her that you'd be reducing the number of hours as you would now be sending your daughter to pre-school?

Do you think that the local Council can simply decide how much they'll fund the nurseries for the "free" hours and working parents have to make up the difference? What if the Council decides to fund the "free" hours at 1p per hour? How do you know that the government isn't paying Merton Council £5.05 per hour for my son and Merton are pocketing the difference?

RatPants Sat 23-Mar-13 19:28:41

Same here MrsHeggle my son receives his fifteen free hours (well, 2h 15m per day) at a state nursery attached to a primary school in the afternoons but goes to private nursery in the mornings and this involve a complicated picking up / dropping off system with a childminder and various family members.

BettyandDon Sat 23-Mar-13 19:29:14

The private nurseries closeby us (neighbouring borough) justify their fees by adding extras such as yoga within the 15 hours. The govt funding was covering 1/3rd to 1/2 of the total fee. Astounding figures we couldn't afford it.

Luckily we have a place at a council run facility where we do get 15 hours free. We will do our yoga in the afternoons at home smile.

There is no way there are enough spaces for everyone to get truly 15 hours free, so yes the scheme is quite misleading. Well done for challenging.

If we had not got the place we did I would have kept my DD at home until she started reception.

takeaway2 Sat 23-Mar-13 19:49:25

My DS is in reception year now and my dd is 2.5 years old. When we received the 15 hr free per week, it worked out over 38 weeks of term so for some months we had low bills and other months higher.

We knew a boy who only went 3 afternoons and they didn't pay except during non term time. On our son's time table they'd indicate whether today was 'free' or not. It was quite clear. Each day was divided into 2 5 hour sessions. So for our son who goes full time, his Mondays were free and his Tuesday morning. Then we'd pay for Tuesday afternoon, Wednesdays-Fridays. Quite clear. It's up to us whether we take him in at 8am sharp or not!!! The nursery was open 8-6pm.

Sirzy Sat 23-Mar-13 19:51:07

The 15 hours ISN'T free childcare. It is 15 hours of (optional) EDUCATION for preschool age children.

KeriRussell Sat 23-Mar-13 19:57:06

I know private nurseries round here offer the 15 free hours; in fact it is used as a selling point as at that time there are a lot of people looking at going back to work full time....

OddBoots Sat 23-Mar-13 19:58:44

If you are happy to number crunch you can get more info here by downloading the spreadsheet.

From that I can see that Merton spends 4.8% of its dedicated schools grant (central government funding) on Early Years meaning £2 280 per child of which they pay £2 211 to PVI settings, the remainder being kept centrally by the council. This compares to 5.7% giving £2 539 per child (£2 166 to PVI) for England as a whole.

KeriRussell Sat 23-Mar-13 20:08:55

I'd also like to point out as a former child are development officer that a lot of private nurseries are not run on as much of a shoe string budget as you may think. Often their staff are payed very poorly with the minimum number being in place (years before working my way up the ladder I temped in nurseries and as a temp I earned more than the section manager!). They can charge extortionate rates to parents and a lot also request the parents provide nappies and formula, with the nursery providing food and snacks. Which, to be fair how much do you honestly think a baby or toddle will be given to eat, and from what I have actually witnessed it wasn't a huge amount - and some places only give the child a limited time to eat (20 mins). Not all are like this and I've also worked in some excellent places, but after seeing it decided childminders were my preference for my kids...and trust me I have seen the good bad and ugly with them too!

forevergreek Sat 23-Mar-13 20:11:18

most private nurseries here dont offer it now due to loss in funds. we unfortunately get no reduction for 3 year old

they shouldnt be able to change the rules around though. i think either 15 free hours should be totally free

Floggingmolly Sat 23-Mar-13 20:17:00

But not all nurseries cost the same, do they? confused. The council refund at a standard rate, why should they subsidise your desire to use a more expensive child care establishment? What you've described is the way it's always worked; I'm surprised they spent 3 months investigating your complaint...

MrsHeggulePoirot Sat 23-Mar-13 20:35:51

@jdey1969 I don't think you read my post properly. I was responding to your rather rude comment about it only being for unemployed parents already claiming benefits. I was just explaining to you that I work, don't claim benefits and use the state school nursery provision. Of course if I was unemployed and on benefits this is completely irrelevant to your argument.

My childminder's have not been reduced, as I work I still have to pay her for the full day the same as I did before DD started nursery. I don't agree that it is right if your nursery have changed their hourly rate side you claimed the 15 hours. What I am saying is that you have chosen to send your child to a private nursery. State schools get about £3.50 per pupil per hour. Therefore in my opinion you should get 15 x 3.50 x 38 off your annual nursery bill and your hourly rate (same as all parents there) should be charged as normal.

I know some nurseries in Merton charge £6 per hour. I don't agree that the govt/Merton should pay this amount because your child is at a private nursery. Lots of my friends have children at some of the private nurseries and have some reduction in their fees since their children turned 3. This however does not work out at 15 hours reduction but they at all happy that this is because the funding doesn't match the private nurseries charge.

At the end of the day all that I can see will happen is that private nurseries simply won't offer to participate in the scheme at all.

MrsHeggulePoirot Sat 23-Mar-13 20:37:46

floggingmolly said it much better!

"So for working parents, the 15 free hours should read "15 free hours for unemployed mums who want a break from their kids, which you'll be paying for, on top of all the other taxes that are paying for their other benefits".

I was on your side until you said that.

jdey1969 Sat 23-Mar-13 20:49:59

@MrsHeggulePoirot You can agree or disagree with the current policy that all 3 or 4 year olds are entitled to 15 free hours per week, 38 weeks per year at childminders, pre-schools or private nurseries but that's the policy as it currently stands.

@FloggingMolly. If both parents are working, you don't have much choice on which nursery to send your kids to, it's the one that's most convenient. You make working sound like a lifestyle choice. Again you may disagree with the current policy that 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 15 free hours per week, 38 weeks per year at ANY childminder, pre-school or private nursery that's willing to participate in the scheme but that's the policy as it currently stands. If I was sending my son to the nursery for 15 hours or less it would be totally free, irrespective of whether the nursery was charging £3.70 per hour, £5.05 per hour or indeed £20 per hour.

The nursery can choose not to participate in the scheme but if they are in the scheme, they should abide by the rules.

forgottoremember Sat 23-Mar-13 20:55:32

Look the rules are simple
So if a private nursery wants to participate in the 15 free hours scheme, for better or worse THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO CHARGE TOP UP FEES FOR THOSE HOURS!
We can argue over whether that's a good thing or a bad thing - but it's still THE LAW.
Which is why jdey has a v valid complaint against her nursery.

I agree-the final result may well be that private nurseries can't any longer participate in the scheme. From central gvt's perspective, I'm absolutely sure that that was the point of the rule. They want to spend as little as they possibly can on this scheme, and they DEFINITELY don't want to subsidise private nurseries' profits.

To put things in perspective, my children attend a nursery in an inner-London borough, where prices for most private nurseries are astronomical, even though staff are paid a pittance. Our nursery can afford to provide fantastic care AND to participate in this scheme - because no profits are made...

forgottoremember Sat 23-Mar-13 20:56:25

...crossed messages...
same point as op...

redwellybluewelly Sat 23-Mar-13 21:04:30

OP this has been fascinating to read and food for thought for DH and I whose DD attends private nursery. The term after she turns 3 she will only be at nursery 2 days (4 sessions) a week as I am on maternity leave. BUT those are the minimum the nursery will allow you. Which is a bit over 15 hours. Which means we won't get 15 hours.

As I said - food for thought...

MrsHeggulePoirot Sat 23-Mar-13 21:04:56

And regardless of the rules, this comment:

"So for working parents, the 15 free hours should read "15 free hours for unemployed mums who want a break from their kids, which you'll be paying for, on top of all the other taxes that are paying for their other benefits".

Was still ridiculous and unnecessary.

Frankly it makes me hope your nursery withdraws from the scheme completely.

TiredFeet Sat 23-Mar-13 21:20:21

I don't have an issue with a private nursery charging top up. Where children are there all day, rather than just a few hours, you don't want the place to be run on a shoe string. I love that my sons nursery has very generous ratios (far better than minimum), highly qualified staff (who thanks to the ratios always seem calm and happy and very caring), a chef who sources all ingredients locally and cooks wonderful fresh food, and a vast garden and lots of great toys and resources. I wouldn't want them to be cutting costs left right and centre. I see the 'free' hours as a helpful contribution that makes life a little more affordable

Mandy21 Sat 23-Mar-13 21:37:42

Its tricky because the vast majority of private nurseries simply cannot afford to abide by the policy. The government hourly rate is about half of what my DD's nursery charges, so how can that stack up?

OP, apart from the financial issues, have you been happy with your son's care? I think for most parents, thats the most important factor and if their child's private nursery is great on every front apart from offering "free" hours, then parents accept the way they interpret the rules.

The alternative - lets face it the government isn't going to increase the amount it gives nurseries, is for nurseries simply to opt out of the scheme. The only places that will be able to offer the "free" hours will be the nurseries attached to schools / play group type places which offer 3 hours a day etc. For families where they need the extended day offered by a private nursery, there won't be any help at all.

jdey1969 Sat 23-Mar-13 21:53:25

@Mandy21. I don't have an issue with the nursery staff, just their financial department and the owner. I think the nursery's pretty good. I just believe in honesty.

I don't think any new points are coming up.

Either you believe that all 3 and 4 year olds should get 15 free hours per week, 38 weeks per year as per government policy,

or you believe:-

i) Only 3 and 4 year olds who attend a nursery attached to a state school should get it
ii) The government isn't funding the scheme adequately, so parents should just accept whatever the council/nursery feels like refunding

What is fascinating is that the UK has 1 of the highest nursery costs in the world, the government's subsidising it, yet nursery providers are apparantly all on the brink of bankruptcy. Something doesn't add up.

ceebeegeebies Sat 23-Mar-13 22:06:04

I am a bit confused by this as, in my experience, nurseries don't charge by the hour, they charge by the day.

For example, the private nursery I use charge £33 per day for a 3 year old. The nursery is open from 7am until 6pm so if your child went for the entire day, it would be £3 per hour. If your child wasn't dropped off until 9am and you picked them up at 4pm, it would be £4.70 per hour - a huge difference in price. So how can councils possibly say what an 'hour' is worth at any particular private nursery when it can actually vary between parents using the nursery depending on drop off/pick up times?

On that basis, I think it is only fair that the nursery just deduct the amount that they receive from the council (in my case this is £49 per week) - this makes it equitable for all parents regardless of how many hours your DC are actually there.

However, the nursery (under the previous management) did suddenly add £10 to the daily rate once a child turned 3 on the basis they required a qualified Early Years specialise which really pissed me off but what can you do other than move your settled child to another nursery? Fortunately they don't do that anymore!

ceebeegeebies Sat 23-Mar-13 22:11:04

I also meant to add that, technically, the hourly rate for DS2 to attend the nursery varies as I sometimes drop him off before 8, sometimes it is nearly 9 and the time I pick him up varies between 4 and 6 depending on work...how would a council possible work out what an 'hour' is worth to me??

ExRatty Sat 23-Mar-13 22:22:47

None of the private nurseries near here will do it. They say it's more trouble than it is worth and to try somewhere else. Utterly useless

Mandy21 Sat 23-Mar-13 22:32:17

jdey I don't think the argument is as simple as that - yes, of course your argument is that the government is promising "free" hours, so all 3 or 4 yr olds should receive get it. The reality of the situation is that private nurseries are different. As you rightly pointed out at the beginning of a thread) private nurseries are businesses and most would have to run at a loss in order to provide the "free" hours without any top ups. I don't think my DDs nursery is on the verge of bankruptcy, not for a second, but as a business, the figures don't stack up. My DD attends for 3 days (max 10 hours) at a cost of £65 per day (£195). If she was entitled to 15 "free" hours (i.e. absolutely no top up), the nursery would get 15 x £3.70 from the council (£55.50) and £97.50 from me, a total of £153. They'd be "losing" £42 a week just for my DD (about £1600 over 38 weeks). If they have say 50 x 3 and 4 year olds, thats the best part of £80,000 a year they'd have to swallow to be part of the scheme.

I accept that charging top ups is not allowed by the scheme, but the scheme is just not workable.

I just looked on it as free money. When ds1 turned 3 we paid less at nursery and again when ds2 was 3. I was grateful for the state funded reduction.

One family at our nursery got thei calculators out and worked out what they thought the reduction should be based on hours of child are only. They took the complaint all the way, but the nursery provided drinks, snacks, and hot meals at lunch and tea time. They provided nappies for babies which most nurseries dont. When the children turned 3 the nursery would take them for swimming lessons and provided transport in the managers people carrier (we had to pay for the lesson). That nursery provided soooo much more than 8 till 6 of child care. The extras all have to be paid for and I was happy for them to be over and above my reduction.

In the end the authorities found in favour of the nursery. The family concerned withdrew their child in a huff and put him in a nursery where they paid about 50p a day less.
But they had to send their own food and it was 2 miles further out of their way for work.

And, do childminders all have to provide the scheme now? I thought they weren't eligible but am happy to be wrong if that's the case.

SherbetDibDab Sat 23-Mar-13 22:34:07

You can't calculate the hourly price of your childcare by simply dividing the day rate by 10. Day rates at private nurseries include food; the funding is for education only. Your nursery could charge you for the food your child eats in their session.

One reason UK childcare is expensive is our staff/child ratios are high, which I think is a good thing.

Mandy21 Sat 23-Mar-13 22:35:50

ceebee the hourly rate for the nursery doesn't change though - they still have to have a member of staff there from 7am just in case you want to drop your child then, and they still need someone there at 6pm even if you decide to collect early. Their costs are the same whether you choose to use it 10 hours or 5, unless of course you tell them days in advance and they can change their staffing plans accordingly.

ceebeegeebies Sat 23-Mar-13 22:42:08

Mandy21 that is a good point smile

Plus as Flibberty (hi grin) said, an hourly rate cannot take into account the 'extras' that are provided other than education such as food, drink etc.

Hi back at you Ceebee!

How come my kids seem huge and old and you still have one at nursery!!
I loved that nursery so much we still save old underpants and socks for their 'accidents' cupboard!

Oh yes and then also included in a daily rate is art equipment, replacement of things like aprons, toys, books, blankets, none of which would be included in the 'hourly rate' for reduction purposes.

I wouldn't have wanted to send my children to a nursery that only provided (and charged for ) flat child care with nothing else on top or included.

IsItMeOr Sat 23-Mar-13 23:03:52

I suspect you're on a bit of a hiding to nothing here OP, although I understand your frustration (not necessarily how you have expressed it though, ahem).

Merton has a problem in that it simply does not have enough state nursery places to meet the demand for the free places. We applied and didn't get anywhere for the term after DS turned 3. So we sent him to a couple of morning sessions at the private nursery (at a cost of over £30 a session, but our choice, not that there is much choice as very few of the private nurseries in our immediate area will offer just the 3 hour sessions).

So I guess this is mainly a remark to MrsHeggule to request that she moderates her tone when suggesting that everybody in Merton has the option of the free places at the state nurseries. They don't.

JumpHerWho Sat 23-Mar-13 23:09:33

I'm looking forward to DS reaching 3, so I can see him develop in a group setting we can't afford at the moment get some time away from the kid smile

JumpHerWho Sat 23-Mar-13 23:12:39

I get that nurseries aren't allowed to charge top-up fees, but that's not what they're doing here OP - they're charging one rate for the govt funded hours, a product you're entitled to and buying into - then they're selling you a separate product in the form of childcare hours while you work. I don't see the problem - and it's a bit rich for you to infer that SAHMs are entitled, when you seem to think you deserve free childcare because you work!

littlemisssarcastic Sat 23-Mar-13 23:20:45

The nursery my DD went to gave 15 hours of free nursery education from September onwards to the children who were 3 at that time.
If a child reached the age of 3 in October, they wouldn't qualify for the free 15 hours until the following September IYSWIM.

For the children who didn't qualify for the free 15 hours, their parents paid substantially more for their children's nursery sessions than the nursery received from the govt for the free funding, so yes, the paying parents were subsidising the free sessions. The nursery couldn't have afforded to run the free sessions if all of the children had been charged the same, regardless of whether they were entitled to the free 15 hours or not.

I was aware this was going on years ago. It is nothing new, but I wish you luck in your quest to see change OP. I feel you are going to need a lot of luck tbh, because I'm not sure nurseries can operate by charging everyone the same as they receive from the govt for the free hours.

lougle Sat 23-Mar-13 23:23:44

The rules state that the 15 hours have to be entirely free. That means that if your child was to attend for 15 hours, you should have no fee whatsoever.

However, the rules do not limit the preschool/nursery setting from charging variable fees.

They are within their rights, for example, to have a 2 year old rate of £3.50 per hour and a 3 year old rate of £6.50 per hour.

They are also within their rights to have a variable fee of, say, "£3.63 per hour for the first 15 hours and £5.66 per hour for any hours above 15 hours."

They are also within their rights to restrict the free hours to mornings only, afternoons only, or Mondays only.

So the upshot is, that you could find that your bill only reduces by the amount of the NEG funding when you compare it to your fees prior to qualifying for the 15 hours, but that it has been achieved by procedurally (not necessarily morally) correct methods and therefore the Council can do nothing to change it.

You would be mistaken to conclude that any of these measures result in the 15 NEG hours being less than 'free'. It is simply the case that the hours over and above this are charged at a premium.

MrsBonkers Sat 23-Mar-13 23:28:21

You want private education, you pay for it.
You want state education you don't.

You want private 15hrs early years provision you pay a top up for it.
You want state 15hrs early years provision its free.

If you work and you want to access the free provision, then you have to arrange wrap around care.

JumpHerWho Sat 23-Mar-13 23:32:22

MrsBonkers that is incorrect - nurseries can't and don't charge top-up fees for the 15 hours. What they an and do do is charge more for additional hours - which is OP's complaint.

MrsBonkers Sat 23-Mar-13 23:37:17

Sorry badly worded.
The principle is the same though, if you go state its free, you go private its not, for all the reasons/extras people have listed here.

I think the complaint with Merton should be if they don't provide enough state places.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 23-Mar-13 23:37:45

Excellent points, Lougle.

State pre-schools round here charge something for food and something for art supplies as well, even if the education is free.

MrsBonkers Sat 23-Mar-13 23:47:04

Just copied this from our local council's website:

Can a provider charge any fees for
a child’s Free Early Education place?

No, providers can not charge
any kind of fee or ‘top up’
for any part of the Free
Early Education place. The
Department for Education state
that the entitlement must be
free at the point of delivery and
access to a place should not be
dependant on parents paying
for additional hours or services.
If parents do not feel they are
being offered or receiving a
Free Early Education place
in accordance with these
guidelines please contact the
Family Information Service who
will be able to offer advice.

I stand corrected, but I'm suprised.

WinkySlink Sat 23-Mar-13 23:55:58

The bottom line here is that most private nurseries do not get enough funding from the government to cover their costs for the free provision.

Most do their best to provide it to help their clients, or would have to stop offering it at all.

Clients like the OP dont appreciate the expense, and would rather close a private business down, than take their own Custom elsewhere. There is no suggestion that any setting actually profits from offering the free hours!

WinkySlink Sun 24-Mar-13 00:06:40

I think it would be more useful if offered as a kind of voucher reglecting ts monetary value. Someone upthread said it worked out at just iver two thousand pounds a year. If the govt just gave that amount in vouchers, then people could make their decision on where to send their child on that basis.

lougle Sun 24-Mar-13 00:10:31

Mrs Bonkers, that still doesn't stop the setting from charging more for additional hours. As long as the OP is free to use only 15 hours, and if she did so, that 15 hours would be free of charge, the setting is entitled to charge as much as it wants for any other hours, even if they do so in a way that means that parents who are not entitled to the NEG funding pay a lower hourly fee than those who are entitled to NEG funding.

CouthySaysEatChoccyEggs Sun 24-Mar-13 01:01:00

But what about those people who can't ACCESS free state Early years education, because there simply aren't enough places in their town?

In my end of town, there are less than half of the required number of Early Years education places full stop, including Private Nursety places (and we have two large chain Nurseries, a smaller Chain Nursery that gives priority to Hospital staff, and one smaller Private Nursery to make up that shortfall, and still with the five local preschools there is less than half accounted for...)

The other end of town absorbs some of this shortfall, in their Private Nurseries, as the schools that end of town have attached Nurseries.

But then there are STILL around 25% of 3-4 year olds in our town with NO available place in which to take up their funded place.

So the private nurseries doing this in my town REALLY pisses me off. The local Nurseries are already full with DC's whose parents work, and can afford them (which most people NOT commenting to London can't, £22k is a good management wage in our town...).

This leaves the people on NMW or unemployed to fight over preschool places that are as rare as hens teeth.

To get a place at preschool, you need to have your DC's name down by January IN THE ACADEMIC YESR THEY ARE BORN IN. If your DC is born by the end of January, you won't get a preschool place until they are 3.5+. If at all, as DC's stay there till Reception.

Btw - can I have your £5.56 an hour costs for a private Nursery? We have to take up our DC's preschool place in the September or lose it. As my DS was born after Dec 31st, I have to pay £7 an hour PLUS snack money for a non-profit making preschool until the Easter holidays when he starts.

I'd bite your arm off for flat costs of just £5.56 an hour!

CouthySaysEatChoccyEggs Sun 24-Mar-13 01:03:20

Ugh my typing is rubbish tonight and makes me sound illiterate. Time for bed...

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 06:40:23

Sending my son to a private nursery is not a lifestyle choice, as it would be if I sent him to private school. As other commenters have said there simply aren't enough state schools who offer nursery places, and those that do are only available for 15 hours per week.

The only poster whose told me she works and sends her child to a nursery place at a state school, employs a childminder. Childminders aren't necessarily a cheaper option than private nurseries and nurseries provide better socialisation than sending your child to a childminder, which is why the poster has decided to make use of the 15 free hours supplied by the state.
The poster has also said that they're no better off financially.

So, working parents are subsidising the 15 "free" hours system in proportion to how long they work, through increased fee rates for the unfunded hours. This is on top of the money that they're paying in taxes already, so is effectively a double taxation.

However you may feel about what people earn, it's what their net income minus costs that determines if they're rich or poor. There are many parents who have to make the choice each day as to whether to work or stay at home. With spiralling nursery costs, more parents are forced to stay at home.
The childcare costs are acknowledged by both sides of the political divide:-

Nurseries can't have it both ways. They can't claim as they often do that they're absorbing the costs of the early years funding, and that this is why fees to parents have spiralled beyond the means of most to pay, when as has been revealed by this thread, it is working parents who are subsidising early years funding not the nurseries.

If median pay is going down, and nursery fees are going up by more than the rate of inflation, explain to me how nurseries aren't making a profit? What additonal costs have they incurred this year that they didn't have last year?

Figure 4 reveals that median wages have slumped whilst nursery costs have skyrocketed:-

In real terms, nursery costs have gone up 77% over the last 10 years.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 24-Mar-13 07:14:54

Jdey, do you think your own nursery is a very profitable entity?

libertyflip Sun 24-Mar-13 07:21:36

The current system isn't fair to anyone -

The families who only use the free 15 hours rarely have any choice in the hours that are offered. The families using more than the fifteen hours are often charged more for the unfunded hours, not necessarily to make up the losses caused by the free hours, but to help pay for under threes places which are far far more expensive to provide. The staff are often paid a very low wage and smaller nurseries often struggle to survive if too many families take up only free hours.

My understanding is that the government is currently considering whether to remove all restrictions on charging top ups and additional fees as the chain nurseries have been lobbying the government for some time. If this happens, nurseries can charge what they like.

I don't expect free universal provision for three and four year old child will be available for much longer and the government will be able to use all the reasons above to say it isn't working. The law has already been quietly changed to allow the government to restrict free provision to disadvantaged children only and I suspect the recently announced 20% tax breaks per child will be instead of NEG funding for working parents in the future. I hope I am wrong.

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 07:22:31

@TheDoctrineOfSnatch. I can't see how they wouldn't be making substantial profits. Staff are paid a pittance. The nursery has been established for 30 years, so their property costs are probably low to non-existent. They've passed on the costs of the 15 "free" hours by hiking costs to parents who put their kids in for longer. The Daycaretrust recently revealed that nursery fees have gone up by 77% in real terms over the last 10 years.

With skyrocketing fees and no obvious increase in their costs, they must be making substantial profits.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 24-Mar-13 07:33:20

See, if I do the calculations on the nursery I use (x number of staff, x number of children who are rarely full time, manager, owner, meals, activities, rates, mortgage/rent, utilities, maintenance) - I do not believe there is much profit margin. Ours is quite a small nursery.

77% increase in 10 years is just under 6% increase a year. Food, utilities, and rates have all risen in that time. I'm not sure when in that period the 15 hours came in - I know it used to be 12.5.

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 07:45:16

77% in real terms i.e. after inflation (which includes increases in food, utilities and rates etc.)

Some nurseries will struggle where there are a lot of children just there for the 15 free hours.

That's not the case with my nursery.

IsItMeOr Sun 24-Mar-13 07:47:58

OP - what happens in Merton ime with peers who work and want to take up a place at a state nursery, they actually end up paying more because they still need to pay for the full time nursery place, but no longer get the contribution from the council for the education aspect because that's being used to fund the state nursery place.

People who can afford to choose to do it because they think it's good for their child. Those who can't afford to, don't, and just stick with full time nursery, but then it can be quite hard on the dc as all their friends are doing something different for several hours a day.

IsItMeOr Sun 24-Mar-13 07:50:36

Oh, and I've just remembered that my private nursery is in Wandsworth, so it's their contribution we get, rather than Merton's.

However, I definitely paid the difference when DS was just going for the 3 hour sessions, so there was no apparent subsidy of my child by other parents. So my invoice shows the standard amount that anybody with a child at the nursery would pay for the hours I've used, and then deducts off the council's contribution.

IsItMeOr Sun 24-Mar-13 07:52:16

BTW this debate has been around since the scheme was first introduced. I took the view that I like the nursery, I can afford to pay the difference, so I go for it.

Obviously that's a choice I have because DH and I can afford it.

Mrneedy Sun 24-Mar-13 08:11:15

Fwiw, my dc went to private nursery in Merton, full-time, and they had no problem taking off the 15 hours a week

lljkk Sun 24-Mar-13 08:12:08

According to Wiki FT wages have gone up by 33% from 2002-2012.
Not that I want to debate numbers.
Most the preschools I've been involved with charged less per session for unfunded children than they were paid by the council for funded children; they couldn't survive under any other business model.

Yes children are expensive & no UK govt. is going to fully subsidise childcare.

MrsHeggulePoirot Sun 24-Mar-13 08:15:42

isitmeor there previously wasn't any mention of state nursery places being an issue. Of course I realise that Merton doesn't have enough aces and that I agree is an issue.

What I, and others, took offence at was the comment (that has bee quoted a number of times) and unemployed parents and benefits. I was merely pointing out that this wasn't the case. However the OP has point blank refused to further comment or apologise for that statement.

Had the OP said they had applied and failed to get a place then that is a different matter. As i said before I agree the scheme is flawed as it stands, but I think that what will happen if pushed is that the private nurseries with just withdraw completely. Then it will be simply a lottery for those that apply and get a place.

Someone asked about childminders - they cn apply to be part of the scheme if registered with ofsted I think and can then provide the 15 hours if education.

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 08:20:20

Figure 4 here compares increase in median wages against nursery fees over the last 10 years:-

Real median hourly average earnings have plumetted since 2010 and are now virtually on a level with what they were 10 years ago. "Real" means after inflation. Not sure how much inflation has risen over the last 10 years, but 33% is probably likely.

Nursery fees were going up in line with wages up to 2010 but have continued to rise in real (i.e. after inflation is taken in to account) terms since. So nurseries have certainly been boosting their profits substantially over the last couple of years.

Sirzy Sun 24-Mar-13 08:25:22

A business trying to make a profit. How awful!

Sirzy Sun 24-Mar-13 08:30:44

You also have to take into account people now expect much more from their nursery. Staff do a lot more training in a variety of things now, most nurseries now have numerous items if technology to support children's learning and in general patents expect more. This all comes at a cost.

trixymalixy Sun 24-Mar-13 08:34:51

OP with your shop analogy you are effectively wanting to use the "discount" at a more expensive shop but still get the same number of items, but expecting none of the shortfall to be passed onto other consumers.

The reality is that the government don't pay enough per hour to cover the private nursery costs, so who exactly are you expecting to make up the shortfall? You're bonkers if you're expecting the nursery to absorb it. They don't have to offer funded places and if they're forced to take a hit on their profits to offer it then why the fuck would they bother?

Technically they can't charge top ups and can't charge the parents that only use the free places anything, so the shortfall must be borne by the fee paying parents. Everyone knows this is the way it works.

I believe our nursery gets round the no top up rule by charging different rates for part days than they do for full days (so 2* part days is more expensive than a full day) and then there's a higher hourly rate for additional hours on top. Personally I would rather see transparent top up payments.

trixymalixy Sun 24-Mar-13 08:35:43

And I know for a fact that my DD's nursery do not make massive profits.

IsItMeOr Sun 24-Mar-13 08:36:20

MrsHeggule agree that was an ill-advised remark by OP.

But for people relying on full-time nursery, they effectively have to pay to take up the free state nursery place, so it's cheaper to stay at a private nursery and get the contribution.

I think all this is an artefact of the system whereby central government gives a grant to local councils, who also raise money via council tax, but we still want to be able to have national entitlements, despite inevitable local variations.

As far as I know, exactly the same happens with "free" nursing care in England (which I think is in fact a flat rate amount, but private care homes charge different rates for the service) and "free" personal care in Scotland (which is only free if you can find somewhere that charges at or below the standard rate).

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 08:48:46

@trixymalixy. I was certainly unaware that fee paying parents are subsidising the "15 free hours per week, 38 weeks per year " places at private nurseries on top of paying for the scheme in the first place via our taxes.

How would you know this until you become a parent of a 3 year old and start digging in to the figures?

The scheme obviously encourages 1 parent to stay at home. There's always going to be families who are weighing up whether to stay working or stay at home. With the additonal costs that they're being forced to bear to subsidise this scheme, their choice will be be to stay at home. This will increase the costs further to those fee paying parents, causing the next one in line to have to stay at home etc. etc. until all families have 1 parent working at home.

MrsHeggulePoirot Sun 24-Mar-13 08:56:47

I think we are saying the same thing. I wasn't at a private nursery and my childminder wasn't registered to take the 15 hours and tbh I wanted DD to attend the local school nursery as I felt she was ready for it, and would enjoy the school style dameans meeting other children (which she does). I didn't send her because I wanted to save money on my childcare - the provision is for education not free childcare. I don't get any saving whatsoever, I pay the same price per day as before.

For me it cost the same to not take up the provision or take it up. For those at a private nursery you are lucky enough to save some money taken off your bill. So actually those people who have full time childcare at a cm, not registered to provide the 15 ours of education are the worst off.

I think that the scheme probably won't last much longer in all honesty, or private nurseries won't participate. There is no money going to be put in from govt. 6th forms attached to schools have just had their funding slashed to make it in line with 6th form colleges so I imagine, like the current scheme for 2 year olds, they will means test it, or only offer it to those children that really need it.

MrsHeggulePoirot Sun 24-Mar-13 09:02:27

jdey I don't agree the scheme encourages one parent to stay at home particularly. There are loads of parents who both work and just accept a reduction at their nursery, use ther childminder, or just don't apply for the optional hours.

Had we been unable to make it work with out cm, DD simply wouldn't have gone/used the hours. I can't see it would have been terrible for us/her.

tilder Sun 24-Mar-13 09:04:11

It is preschool education not childcare.

The amount the government pays per hour is very low. It makes it difficult to run a preschool as a charity, even with peppercorn rent for a school building, packed lunches from home an donated snacks. Am not at all surprised that private nurseries, who have higher overheads and a need for a profit, have higher charges.

Whether the way the charges are advertised a d billed is fair is another matter.

FWIW its common round here to use a childminder to cover before and after preschool hours. This originally cost the childminders a lot of money as they had to hold the space open but didn't get paid while the child was at preschool. They now charge a retainer to cover those hours.

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 09:05:48

@MrsHeggulePoirot. Yes, I don't really understand why you would wish to pay a childminder whose not registered for the scheme. Why not just put them in a private nursery. A private nursery should be cheaper just because of economies of scale.

For working parents, you only have a choice of childminder and private nursery. You can choose to also make some use of a state-run nursery but you couldn't fully rely on that option due to the restricted hours. If the government is serious about wanting all parents to work, they should fully fund early years care from 0 to 4, in my opinion. The costs to general taxpayers would be offset by the revenue generated from income tax and national insurance.

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 09:10:04

@MrsHeggulePoirot. There are loads of parents that continue to work and fund the current scheme. My point is that there are parents who are currently right on the margin, many of whom for which it would be cost effective to stay at home but continue to work because they value their career prospects or believe the financial hit is short term. Each year, as nursery fees increase, those on the margin are forced to make the decision to stay at home, which increases the costs further on those parents who continue to work. The domino effect is clear, but isn't apparant to those parents who are still rich enough to not have to make that choice yet.

IsItMeOr Sun 24-Mar-13 09:29:15

Personally I am far more concerned about the allegations of parents not getting the 15 hours subsidising the places for those who are, than I am about paying top-ups.

Is that kind of cross-subsidy allowed? It seems very unfair if it is.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 24-Mar-13 09:37:54

Like most parents using private daycare, my kids started going at the end of my maternity leave. So me and DH have been paying full whack for years. As each child turns three we get to pay a bit less, hooray. That's why I'm not sure I follow some of your arguments re economics of free hours impacting decisions of parents to work.

MrsHeggulePoirot Sun 24-Mar-13 09:43:26

For me I choose not to put them in a private nursery as for me I don't particularly think putting very, very young children into a nursery was something I wanted to do. Leaving them with a childminder for me was an option that I get comfortable with. Lots of friends use nurseries and are very happy with them, as well as those that have not been.

I am not sure I understand this allegation that some parents are subsidising others? Is that at the private nurseries or in general?

I do not agree that childcare should be funded from 0-4 for everybody.

nannynick Sun 24-Mar-13 09:48:49

Nurseries and childminders have to go through lots of additional steps in order to provide funded nursery education. A friend of mine runs a small nursery and it has taken a year to get through the audits and other things the local authority imposes on the nursery in order to meet the loacal authorities criteria for offering funded sessions. Many childminders are not involved in the scheme as it involves additional training, frequent monitoring visits/audits, and a lower fee being paid for the funded hours than the childminder would normally charge.
Lizz Truss with her proposed changes to childcare regulations is looking at letting all childminders offer the funding. Not sure how far that has got, expect there are some issues over minimum standards.

As a nanny I have had children in my care attend funded education sessions. Last year we did not get 15 hours, we got a little under 9 hours. The village has one nursery, it simply can not provide enough funded sessions for the local children. As a nanny I am under contract to work a specific number of hours a week, so if a child attends nursery during that time I am still paid. So no cost saving there, just a change of scene for the child, opportunity to mix with a larger group (and more diverse) of children.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 24-Mar-13 09:50:29

I don't think I understand the allegation either, MrsHP.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 24-Mar-13 10:19:29

Jdey, if full payers subsidise the free hours, surely you've been a full payer up till now and you are about to get the subsidy. Are there many parents at your nursery joining now just for 15 hours? Ours has 5 hour mornings and five hour afternoons and you can use 2.5 free hours per session - so anyone getting 15 hours free is also paying for at least 15 hours.

As a nursery designing my fee structure I might be thinking "right, I have space for six babies, twelve up to two, eighteen up to three and twenty-four at three plus. Babies need twice as many staff each as two year old's but if I charge £10 per hour for babies and £5 for two year olds I'll get no babies, so I'll charge £7 and £6" or whatever. One age group is subsidising the other if you look at it that way - but it's the best policy to keep the nursery as full as possible and get customers in at the "baby end"

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 10:48:21

The cross-subsidisation where 0 to 2 year olds are cheaper than they should be is a different topic.

For the 15 "free" hour scheme, the more kids the nursery have just claiming the 15 "free" hours, the bigger the deficit between what they would have received at the normal rate prior to the 1st term after the 3rd birthday, and what they receive from the Council. Our nursery is reducing that deficit by charging a higher hourly rate than the rate that they charged prior to the 1st term after the 3rd birthday, to those parents who put their kids in for longer than the 15 "free" hours. If the Council funded the scheme fully, then the nursery would carry on charging the normal rate. If the Council decides to pay the nursery 1p per hour for the 15 "free" hours, then the nursery can either abandon the scheme or charge an even higher rate for the unfunded hours.

Whichever way you look at it, the 15 "free" hours isn't free, it is 15 (reduced by however much the Council decides to fund and the Nursery wishes to pass on to parents) hours per week. On top of that, the ability for parents to find these 15 "free" hour places varies considerably. So you have a supposedly national policy whose benefit varies from Council to Council and nursery to nursery, so there is no social justice going on here. It's a lottery.

Either we go for universally free childcare from 0 to 4, paid for out of general taxation, or childcare that encourages parents to work by providing free childcare places from 0 to 4 for just those parents who work, or just abandon the scheme saving the general taxpayer money.

trixymalixy Sun 24-Mar-13 10:55:36

Once again jdey it is NOT free childcare. It is free education. The purpose is not to reduce the childcare bill for working parents but an attempt to get better education outcomes for children particularly those in disadvantaged backgrounds. So I don't think it should be abandoned just because you feel it's not "fair" and not giving you the reduction on your childcare bill you expected.

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 10:57:45

The other interesting aspect of the 2-tier fee structure is that dependent on the mix of kids in the nursery, the profits that the nursery makes in a year could fluctuate wildly from year to year, dependent on how many kids are totally free, how many there part time and how many full time. Having introduced the 2-tier fee structure, the nursery will now have to encourage full time working parents and discourage part timers and stay at homes.

nannynick Sun 24-Mar-13 10:58:57

Where would the money come from if the council paid the same rate as the nursery charged for unfunded hours?

mamij Sun 24-Mar-13 10:59:26

We are in the borough of Richmond, and I was so excited to get the 15 hours of "free" nursery as DD only does 9.5 hours a week over three days. However, we still have to pay a "top up".

One of the parents of the school called up the local authority and because the school opens for 3 hours and 10 minutes, they can charge whatever they like for the extra 10 minutes a day. The LA pays three hours per day (this can't be spread over the week).

Very sneaky, but there you go.

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 11:04:18

@trixymalixy: The 2-tier fee structure has the exact opposite effect to the social justice agenda that you seek to promote. Private nurseries will increasingly abandon the scheme or discourage the disadvantaged and part-time workers from sending the kids to nursery. There aren't enough state nurseries to provide free places. It is unsustainable. Full time workers have to pay increasing fees, which encourages part time working which hits nursery's profits, which means they have to hike the fees further. It's a death spiral for the industry.

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 11:07:13

@nannynick From general taxation. I think that totally free nursery places for a full working week for parents that work full time at state schools is a workable solution. This encourages people to work, and is self-funding since the more people that work, the higher the tax revenue which in turn can pay for extra places.

15 hours here can only be taken in a council run nursery for this exact reason. If you send your child to a private nursery you cannot expect your council to foot the bill for yr choice. Just the same as if you chose to send your child to a private school, you don't get the money from the council that they would have spent on your child's state funded education.

trixymalixy Sun 24-Mar-13 11:14:43

They do discourage part time places already, by charging a higher hourly rate for half a day than they do for a full day hmm. It's standard practice around here for nurseries and childminders and I suspect across the whole industry.

Around here there are year long waiting lists so hardly a"death spiral".

And it wouldn't surprise me if more nurseries stop offering funded places as the gap between what the government funding and the hourly cost of running a nursery increases as they are not rising at the same rate. Particularly if people who don't have a realistic view on the practicalities of running the scheme get their knickers in a twist about it. Personally I'd rathe see transparent top up fees.

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 11:24:25


Explain to me what childcare options there are for parents that both work. I'm only aware of childminders and private nurseries. The point's previously been made that there aren't enough state nursery places available currently.

The state nurseries only allow you to send your kids there for 15 hours. If they allowed me to send my son there for the same number of hours as schools offer and every child was guaranteed a place, you'd have a point.

Childminders are still a private option and are often more expensive than private nurseries.

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 11:28:14

@trixymalixy. So solve the mystery as to why nursery fees have gone up 77% over and above inflation for the last 10 years, there is massive demand and yet nurseries are claiming that unless they're allowed to charge top up fees, they'll go bust.

Sirzy Sun 24-Mar-13 11:28:18

Jdey - are you deliberately ignoring the fact that the 15 hours is about education and not subsided childcare?

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 24-Mar-13 11:36:41

Exactly Trixy - most daycare settings would prefer 100% full time children I expect - easier for planning.

Dh and I both work. I only 3 days at the moment, but I plan of going back full time within the next year. Ds will be 2 next month so won't qualify for the free hours for another year

The way it works here, ds will go to the state nursery attached to the primary school he will attend. Childminder will do the drop offs and picks ups if she has him during those times, I in return for that pay her a 50% retainer for her to be "on call" for ds during these times. This will continue when he goes to primary school, only I suspect dh or I will drop him off and he'll only be in paid for childcare after school hours until one of us picks him up. After school hours are hard to come by round here and rightly so, my CM charges slightly more if you are an after school place only. Her fees still come well below the national average and She is excellent. Private nurseries round here have you by the short and curlies with their fees and IMHO are horrible soulless places. I just couldn't have sent my child to one of those when I went back to work. I'm not saying all private nurseries are like that, just the options I had.

You seem to want a convenient one stop shop, where you drop in the morning pick up at night, without any extra hassle. If you wanted that round here you would have to pay a premium, which is what you are currently doing.

Tanith Sun 24-Mar-13 12:37:44

Jdey - allow me to explain. I'm an accredited childminder.

The reason costs have gone up is because our running costs have shot up.
Food and petrol are easily my biggest expenses: I'm sure you'll have noticed the increases yourself.
Add to that the much more expensive nursery equipment and resources that we're expected to have. Childminders used to be able to borrow these from our LAs. Those budgets have been cut by the Government. A lot of LAs sold them off on Ebay to raise funds - no doubt many parents benefitted.

Then there's the so-called free 15 hours. We have to subsidise it ourselves. In my county, we aren't allowed to charge different rates or top-up fees. We therefore lose money on free places. I know a lot of places do charge illegal top-ups, load their fees etc..

Then there are all the policy changes. Did you know that each change makes the associated books, trackers (if used), diaries etc. we've bought invalid? They have to be replaced. They are expensive. We also have to undergo yet more training: this eats up budgets, too.

Training. It's compulsory. We're measured on it. Some is legally required. Training courses have tripled, even quadrupled. At the same time, the Government and LAs have slashed training budgets and bursaries.

Insurance and registration costs have gone up. For example, I have to pay to register under the data protection act for no real benefit that I can see. I have to register as a food business if I want to provide children with hot meals and attend more expensive training to do so.

Increased paperwork. For nurseries, this often means employing someone to cope with all the administrative costs. I'm in the same county as Nannynick and can confirm the heavy paperwork load required just so you can have your free entitlement. We childminders have to do this in the evenings, away from our families - answering pointless questions on how we preserve the dignity and privacy of children while we're changing their nappies. My LA has spent a fortune on this Quality paperwork and associated "training", preferring to this to properly funding the entitlement itself.

The training books many of us buy (because the LA training courses these days are pretty dire - no money, you see) cost between £15 and £30 a time. And that IS on Amazon.

And then there's the parents themselves.
Do you know, I've lost thousands to late-payers, non-payers, those who book a full week place months in advance then, at the last minute, announce they only need you for a day because they negotiated fewer hours and got Granny to do the rest? Great for them: not so great for me and my more honest clients who end up having to pay for it all.
At the same time, tax credits and subsidies have been cut.

There are increased rentals and mortgages affecting all settings. My daughter's preschool was asked to double their rent last year or be thrown out of the village hall they use.

We are not, I do assure you, sitting here rubbing our hands with greed while we work out how best to fleece you of your free entitlement!
The people you should really get angry with are the Government and LAs who burden us with ever increasing demands and costs and are doing nothing to address the real reasons that childcare costs are so high.
Far from easing the burden, the Government proposals in More Great Childcare look all set to increase costs! Your childcare could be about to get a whole lot more expensive. No doubt that's what's behind those nice tax breaks the Chancellor is giving so many of you smile

<applauds tanith>

libertyflip Sun 24-Mar-13 13:16:08

Fantastic post Tanith

OddBoots Sun 24-Mar-13 13:29:47

Very well written Tanith.

Viviennemary Sun 24-Mar-13 13:54:15

If you aren't happy why don't you send him to a nursery where the 15 hours would be free as I assume there would be such a nursery. If somebody uses an expensive nursery you couldn't expect the councils to pay top rates. The system seems fair to me. All the nursery would have to do is to refuse to take vouchers at all and that wouldn't really benefit the children. I just don't get your complaint I'm afraid.

MrsHeggulePoirot Sun 24-Mar-13 15:27:54

I think you are seriously mistaken if you think that providing free childcare for all children aged 0-4 is going to pay for itself. There simply aren't the jobs out there for people. Most people aren't working because there are no jobs not because they can't access 15 hours of eduction.

The associated costs of providing this childcare and the checks and paperwork etc will be expensive and I cannot possibly see how it would be cheaper for the govt?!?

Mandy21 Sun 24-Mar-13 18:24:21

I have to agree with MrsHeggule that your belief that free childcare would be self funding is ridiculous. As I said above, I now have one child in nursery and its about £10,000 to round up figures - thats just for a 3 day place. I don't pay that in tax on a 3 day week salary.

I also have twins who are now at school but went to nursery previously. Their fees weren't double, I got some discount for having 2, but on the basis that my tax doesn't even pay for one child's nursery place, it certainly wouldn't have covered two!

TiredFeet Sun 24-Mar-13 18:36:19

thank you Tanith.

I see so many wonderful, professional, caring childcare workers. I think the work and investment you put in should be better appreciated!

as I said upthread, I am more than happy to pay enough to ensure really good childcare for my child, even if it means sacrificing other things to pay for it. (I realise I am lucky to have that choice obviously)

IsItMeOr Sun 24-Mar-13 19:20:16

jdey I'm still confused about how your nursery can apparently get away with the charging structure you describe.

My nursery does nothing like that. The standard rate reduces when DC reach age 3, as they have a lower staff ratio for the older age group. Then when the entitlement to the free education kicked in, the charge fell again.

I'm struggling to follow what precisely your nursery is doing, but it does sound as if it could be unfair.

Bottom line though, is that you just need to decide whether you are happy with the care and education that your DC receive there, and move elsewhere if not.

Even in Sweden, childcare is not totally free - although I think it's capped at 3% of your earnings. According to a recent BBC article I read, I think they spend more on pre-school provision than they do on defence.

HSMMaCM Sun 24-Mar-13 20:48:29

I jumped through 1,000 hoops to get accredited to provide the funded 15 hrs education. The LA then decided that the hourly rate I should accept for these 15 hrs per week is approx £1.50 / hr less than my normal hourly charge. I do it to support my existing children with continuity of care, but I do question how long I can afford to lose this money, while completing more and more paperwork as a result of providing the spaces. I cannot increase my ratios once children are 3, because I am simply allowed 3 children under the age of 5 (1 of them can be under 1). Most nurseries ratios jump up to 1:8 once the children turn 3.

nurserychain Fri 30-Aug-13 18:33:06

I know that this thread is quite old, but it is still very relevant and reading it and what @jdey1969 did to the poor nursery her child attends/attended? made my blood boil.

As Tanith so eloquently put it; nursery costs may have gone up but it certainly hasn't been to line the coffers of the people running them.

As the operations manager for a small chain, I can assure you that despite nursery assistants being paid little compared to other sectors, we pay over the odds to make sure we get good staff since if you pay the minimum you're likely to get those who couldn't give a toss.

Perhaps @jdey1969 has been living on mars to not notice that rents have increased hugely over the past decade. Do you think that nurseries don't pay rent? Imagine how much space a nursery has to have for your little angel to run around and jump and play. Now imagine how much each square foot of that costs, especially if it's anywhere near civilisation.

Add to this that nurseries cannot charge VAT. Guess what this means? We can't claim back VAT either. So every single thing we have to buy, we pay the VAT and can't claim it unlike almost every single other business. And believe me, every time your little angel stamps on a toy, or tears up a book, that's another thing we have to pay for and with dozens of little angels, WE BUY A LOT OF THINGS!

Maintenance? Don't get me started on the costs of maintenance. With children, things just seem to get broken all the time, be it floors, walls, toilets. The tooth fairy unfortunately doesn't fix this and the free 15 hours certainly doesn't cover this.

There is no such thing as 2 tier pricing. The fact is that parents of children who pay fees cover the cost of providing care and parents of children who only come for 15 hours don't. The nursery has to swallow the loss, which is inevitably why free entitlement places are so hard to come by. Most nurseries will provide a few because they feel that morally they ought to and it looks better on them. But, for every child doing 15 free hours, that is one less child who can come for those same hours and actually pay what it costs to provide the care.

Staff: they may not be paid much, but we sure need a lot of them. Not only do we need one staff member for every 3 babies, 4 toddlers and 8(most private nurseries do 6) preschoolers, what about the staff to cover breaks? What about the cooks? What about the cleaners? What about the accountant and the maintenance man? Oh yes, I forgot, we pay them in bananas. Oh and thank you Ofsted for your open door policy, that means another staff member to ensure correct ratio when children are running in and out the building to the garden.

Of course every nursery will make some profit, but you've got to be kidding if you think it's enough to retire on. It's a business, businesses need to make profit or there's absolutely no point in having one. In an ideal world the government would subsidise childcare further as they do in France, and provide more establishments for the free 15hours only, but it's not an ideal world in more ways than just getting your absolutely free 15 hours.

So before you go reporting your nursery to the council and giving them excruciating amounts of grief, maybe you could use your brain and consider that most, maybe not all, but most nurseries owners aren't golem treasuring their precious fees, but actually hard working groups of people trying to provide an excellent standard of care for the least cost possible. And if you're that concerned about anyone making any money, be sure to forgo that holiday you've got booked and give the money to charity instead.

surfandturf Sat 31-Aug-13 19:05:49

Hi all, sorry I haven't read the full thread but I too am a childminder who has jumped through hoops to become accredited so that I too can offer funded places. I chose to do this so that I could help reduce parents expensive childcare costs for the children who are settled and progressing well in my care. I have worked really hard over the past year to get my nvq3 level 3 qualification which I was told I needed in order to become accredited only to receive a letter this morning from my local authority saying that all childminders with a good or outstanding ofsted report can now offer the funding - a year of my own precious time which could have been spent with my own children - wasted!

Having filled out the first funding forms just last week it would seem that the local authority in my area 'advertise' 15 hours of free funding. However this is capped at x no. Of hours per term. Having calculated the no. Of weeks in the term, the max no. Of hours I will recieve payment for actually works out at 12 hours per week! I wholeheartedly agree that if the government offer 15 hours funded then this is what it should be. I do not think it is fair that I should have to provide 3 hours of childcare per week (for 17 weeks this term) for no pay. This could be the same scenario for nurseries and the councils / govt are at fault not the childcare providers.

Gummie Thu 17-Oct-13 17:36:42

What is the story the of this free 15 hours then? My child is 3 and the private nursery he attends tells me each hour is £3.85 from the council and this doesnt cover business costs. They said they will give me what I am owed by the council as I am entitled to it but the rest is I suppose is top up. They are up front and said you either get some money back or we dont participate in the scheme and you get nothing. My son is really happy the nursery and I dont want to move him to just get 15 hours where childcare might be compromised as nurseries have to make adjustments and cut costs to cover the 15 hours of free care. Is anyone in same boat?

Mandy21 Thu 17-Oct-13 21:35:48

gummie I can only speak from my experience and that's exactly the position lots of people are in. The funding, for the vast majority of nurseries, doesn't get near to their hourly rate so they simply give the parents the money they get from the local council. I don't think its a workable system.

bangersmashandbeans Thu 17-Oct-13 21:49:36

I went through the whole process the OP went through but with Surrey county council in terms of complaints etc and got no where! The nursery DD was at got round not charging top up fees by only allowing a minimum of a four hour session (which they are allowed to do) and charge £4.12 per hour (the amount the council gives them) for the first three hours and £17.69 (yes you read that right) for the fourth hour. Ridiculous system but there are Pre schools around which only provide three hour sessions and don't charge at all so it's a matter of choice for parents as to where they want their child to be and how many hours they need. Infuriating though.

oliveoctagon Thu 17-Oct-13 21:52:10

We do 15 hours where you can choose any hour combinations you like, with a 4 week rolling menu of food, all meals and nappies provided. It doesnt matter if you were on a million a year free means free here.

insancerre Fri 18-Oct-13 07:45:14

olive, it's not about how much money the parents have, it's about how much money the nursery needs to survive and stay as a viable business and able to pay its overheads, such as staff wages
your nursery sounds unique as most couldn't afford to supply food and nappies on the 15 hours paid by the LEA
though why 3 and 4 year olds need nappies, I don't know

oliveoctagon Fri 18-Oct-13 08:33:06

insancerre - Its not unique all nurseries I know do it. In London most are entirely free. I work in early years, and I know they dont pay. We have had lots of 3 year olds in nappies.

oliveoctagon Fri 18-Oct-13 08:33:41

*outside of London

oliveoctagon Fri 18-Oct-13 08:38:38

Also most managers are on about 7 quid an hour, and the staff on minimum wage so thats cheap for the owners. I am management of a large disadvantaged area nursery and get £7 an hour. My workload is huge mostly social services, sen, speech and language etc.

Spame60 Tue 18-Mar-14 22:19:01

Jdey1969 - u r right 15 hours is 15 hours and your nursery shouldn't be able to charge differential rates. Good luck! And what happened?

marodo2712 Sat 22-Mar-14 12:43:21


Did you ever hear back from the DOE?

I'm in the process of trying to get to the bottom of this issue in St Albans, Herts. ALL of the nurseries here give the 15 hours a financial equivalent that they then deduct from the monthly bill, they justify this by claiming that the service they offer includes various specialist teachers, nappies, food, lunchtime supervision etc. (and nurseries here are a premium product that charge huge prices because most people commute to London).

The simple fact is that FEE (Free Early Education) is supposed to be available for 15 hours per week, without obligation to buy extra hours or services. In essence, sending your child to ANY establishment that is part of the FEE scheme, you should be able to get 15 hours free early education per week without receiving a bill. Many nurseries etc don't even have a session structure that allows for 15 hours.

There are many arguments here and elsewhere that the nurseries have to charge extra in order to make a profit, but making acceptance conditional upon paying extra is fraud, and if your business model depends on you being able to defraud a public body then you're in the wrong business.

When a nursery claims from a council (sends in a head count) they are declaring that x number of children are receiving 15 hours FEE, if the nursery is actually making the parents pay extra (or giving the 15 hours a money value and deducting) they are lying to the council - making a fraudulent claim, breaking the law.

I have been in contact with the person in charge of the Children's Services at HertsCC and she seems to be of the opinion that 'such is life'. I have hinted to her that by turning a blind eye she is actually complicit in the fraud, and should the police ever investigate, then she might find herself in some very hot water - personally.

The simple fact is that claiming funding from a council for offering a service which is technically not being provided (if you're not sticking to the rules then you're not offering the service as it was designed to be offered - and contracts to such effect have been signed) is fraud, and fraud is fraud, and on such a large scale this isn't just a few companies making a few elicit quid, this is a country wide crime, and a national scandal.

marodo2712 Sat 22-Mar-14 12:47:09

BTW, I've been considering setting up a website designed specifically to campaign re this issue, perhaps the only way to get councils and the government to open their eyes and ears.

MummytoMog Tue 20-May-14 15:25:47

I know this is a zombie thread, but I'm struggling with this issue at the moment. DS won't get a place at the nursery attached to our primary school until next year (fingers crossed anyway) as they never have spaces in the summer term, so he has stayed at his private nfp nursery. What was not clear to me, even though I asked repeatedly what his fees would be for the summer term, until his bill for this month turned up was that the funding would not cover his hourly rate. So he does 20 hours a week, but I won't pay (as I had worked out rather optimistically) for 5 hours a week at �6 an hour, I'll pay for 20 hours a week less 15 x �4ish. Which is kind of desperately disappointing. We've been paying for two days a week since last September and anxiously awaiting the summer term and reduced fees, and they're actually more than double what I was expecting. Sort of sounds like there's no point complaining though from this thread. We'd be perfectly content (ecstatic even, given we already do drop off and pick up for our reception age child) for him to go to the local school nursery for this term too, but there are no places for him. So for him to access it at all, he has to go private.

Littlefish Thu 22-May-14 20:45:08

MummyToMog - have you spoke to your local authority funding team to make a complaint?

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