I am not an expert but the rules in many areas do not allow providers to accept top ups. It varies by area (as just to add to the chaos, different areas are paying different rates vs the providers' 'normal' rates) but yes lots are not accepting them.
Quite a few childminders, preschools and nurseries around here do not offer the 30 hours. Most but not all offer the 15. The 15 funded hour scheme is vastly more organised than the 30 hour one.
Honestly, the funding is a nightmare. I am a cm and have one child doing 30 funded hours with me. The portal got it wrong and I was paid far less in September than I should have been. I was told not to worry as the December payment would bring it up to the correct amount. I’m now out of pocket until December. That’s not fair at all and the parents were horrified when I told them. Considering the amount of hours I have spent on the phone to the early years funding team, I should be paid more per hour for the funding rate not less.
Matyann this is the whole problem with a system originally set up t pay schools where one or less paid in a month has a minimal impact and run by people who have no concept of this is your only income not a hundredth or less part. When I had a problem I contacted my leader of council it was paid in days especially when the local press was mentioned.
My CM doesn't 'do' the free hours either for the reasons described above. So DS goes to the nursery attached to the primary school he will attend for the 15 hours, then his CM picks him up on the days we need her to. As it's a school nursery the free hours are only available in term time, and we both work full time so we most definitely need our childminder too. Besides, she's great and DS loves going to her. He only goes to the nursery to prepare him for going to the adjoined school, almost all of the children there will go to the school too.
So you can choose to either you use your child minder solely and pay for all the hours you need, mix the hours between the childnubder and alternative childcare, but be careful of term time only hours as you'll presumably still need childcare in the holidays and you can't assume your childminder will keep the space unless you have it in your contract with her, or you use only the free hours elsewhere, but again check exactly what you get.
Its great to see that many parents here understand how the 'free' 30 hours of childcare is a complete mess. As a childminder, I don't offer it. You are correct about the 'top up'. It's illegal for us to ask parents to fund the gap between what we normally charge and what the council is giving us. In my case, if I was to have just one child on the free 30 hours of childcare, I would see my income reduced by 17%.
We are allowed to charge for meals and extras (to try and plug the gap) but they are voluntary contributions from the parents so if you decided not to pay, you would be within your right but I would make a massive loss.
Also, the council pays us in arears by months.
the council asks us to sign an agreement which controls many aspects of what we do (change to notice period for example - most childminders have a one-month notice period but with the new agreement, this would have to be one term! and each local area has its own set of rules) and many other things.
Most childminders in my local area are not offering it, whereas others are closing down (we've had two local, very busy nurseries closing down recently because they couldn't pay their staff). This is happening all over the country.