MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Mon 11-Sep-17 17:05:43

Guest post: "The government's new 30-hours free childcare scheme is neither accessible nor free"

Layla Moran discusses her notable first experience at PMQs and the importance of helping parents with the cost of childcare. You can read Education Secretary Justine Greening's guest post on the new childcare policy here.

Layla Moran

Lib Dem Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Young People

Posted on: Mon 11-Sep-17 17:05:43


Lead photo

"The Government haven’t provided enough funding for childminders and nurseries to be able to deliver the scheme."

The stories are legion about the sexism directed at female MPs, but I struggled to believe some of them - for instance, the claim that certain Conservative MPs would shout 'melons' and make the shape of breasts as a female MP rose to speak - before my election this summer.

But then last week I was faced down in Prime Minister’s Question Time. I took the opportunity to raise the concerns of parents in my constituency around access to the government’s 30 hours free childcare offer. Before I could even complete my first sentence I was met with jeering, especially from male Conservative MPs, to such an extent I had to stop and ask if I had made some kind of mistake in protocol. As it happens, it wasn’t me, it was them.

I still don’t entirely understand why all the shouting is necessary. I’m a former teacher, and I wouldn’t tolerate this behaviour in a classroom. Why should it be acceptable in the House of Commons? My reaction was, perhaps, quite female though: 'what did I do?' And it reminds me that the House of Commons has a long way to go to in terms of equality. I am pretty sure that if we had 50% representation by women, this kind of macho grandstanding would be far less common.

But what worries me most is the substantive point about how much the Government cares about the implementation of the free childcare policy. Anyone who has tried to take up the 30 free hours of childcare for three and four-year-olds won’t need me to tell them about the problems with the Government’s scheme.

There is little point in a Government scheme that doesn't actually provide free childcare and doesn't give childminders and nurseries enough funding to be able to deliver it.

Parents have faced huge difficulties trying to register using the online system over the summer. In fact I was granted an 'Urgent Question' on this in July when I quizzed the minister. Since then, it has become clear that the Government haven’t provided enough funding for childminders and nurseries to be able to deliver the scheme.

Many parents in Oxford West and Abingdon reported to me that either they couldn’t find a provider to deliver it or that they had to pay top ups. So neither accessible, nor free.

So my question, raising these issues and asking the Prime Minister to apologise to parents across the country for 'false advertising', was an entirely reasonable one.

In her answer, the Prime Minister has tried to assure me that everything is fine. They’re so determined to show that they are a strong and stable Government that they can’t admit that there have been problems with the 30 hours free childcare, even though they must know it to be true.

I absolutely support this policy. Anything that can help parents with the cost of childcare, help people to be able to go back to work, and to provide early years education for children should be welcomed.

But there is little point in a Government scheme that doesn’t actually provide free childcare and doesn’t give childminders and nurseries enough funding to be able to deliver it.

Some providers – entirely understandably – won’t be offering this 'free' 30 hours of childcare for three and four-year-olds as they won’t get paid enough to make it worth their while.

Some childminders and nurseries are now having to increase the cost of childcare for under threes to make up the shortfall. Many more have started charging parents for extras like nappies, baby wipes, lunches and early/late pick-ups that had previously been included.

On behalf of parents everywhere I will keep speaking the truth. I am determined to be undeterred by the behavior of heckling MPs or substandard answers by the Prime Minister or her ministers. While their attitude shows how much they really care about providing quality childcare for parents, I can assure you, I and the Liberal Democrats care very much indeed.

By coincidence, I’ve come top of the ballot for questions to the Prime Minister at PMQs again this coming Wednesday: tune in to see what happens next.

Layla Moran will be responding to questions and comments on this post shortly.

By Layla Moran

Twitter: @LaylaMoran

Twofishfingers Tue 12-Sep-17 11:20:33

I would like to correct one of your points: when you state that Some providers – entirely understandably – won’t be offering this 'free' 30 hours of childcare for three and four-year-olds as they won’t get paid enough to make it worth their while.

Many of us would actually be paid below the minimum wage. Which is illegal.

yellowfrontdoor Tue 12-Sep-17 11:38:11

Absolutely @Twofishfingers* *

I'm in this line of work myself, we are offering it but there are small top-ups (for some as low as £5.50 per week).
Surely people can understand why there might be a small amount charged on top? For one thing, the extra hours lead to an increase in children that then leads to an increase in staffing levels to maintain ratios.
In many cases the money given to the nursery by the government is not as much as the nursery charges, leaving a shortfall, especially if the nursery is privately run, as opposed to term-time only.

No one is in childcare for the money. But slightly more would be awesome. Most people who work in childcare are passionate about & dedicated to providing high-quality pre-school education... For at least minimum wage!

shirtyQwerty Tue 12-Sep-17 11:54:28

In a democracy where every man and woman can vote, women only have to vote for female MPs to get a ratio closer to 50/50. It seems like we like what more men have to say than women.

Why do you feel it necessary to draw on the fact that you're a woman who was heckled when men are heckled too? It seems like a cheap 'complaint' to get people here onside when the reality is you're treated the same as others who stand up in Parliament.

Why are you in favour of free childcare when surely the onus should be on parents to ensure that they can provide for their child (taking into account maternity and / or paternity leave) without depending upon government subsidies?

MadamedeChevreuse Tue 12-Sep-17 11:54:36

That's what she's saying, right? "The Government haven’t provided enough funding for childminders and nurseries to be able to deliver the scheme."

MadamedeChevreuse Tue 12-Sep-17 11:56:12

My post was to the first two comments btw.

SilverySurfer Tue 12-Sep-17 11:58:13

The OP appears to be as much about Tory bashing as the subject of the thread. That should please the predominantly left wing posters on here.

Why is it unreasonable to expect parents to top up and pay the additional cost which enables childcare workers to be paid a legal and fair wage?


MadamedeChevreuse Tue 12-Sep-17 12:02:37

Because the Tory government has said it will provide 30 hours free childcare a week. This thread is about an MP who is trying to hold them to account to deliver that policy. HTH.

MyDcAreMarvel Tue 12-Sep-17 12:05:57

The problem is if you kick up a fuss the scheme will be scrapped all together , not fixed.
In many parts of the country the funding is enough and both nurseries and parents benefit.
Having said that accessing codes is a nightmare.

Tanith Tue 12-Sep-17 12:25:46

"Why is it unreasonable to expect parents to top up and pay the additional cost which enables childcare workers to be paid a legal and fair wage?"

That is exactly the question providers are asking the Government!

It's the Government that will not allow top-ups.

NeedsAsockamnesty Tue 12-Sep-17 12:30:03

Two fish

Whilst I entirely agree that it is not enough money, how likely is it that a minder will only be looking after 1/2 child? Which is what would be happening to get below NMW?

It is not the governments fault if a childminder is not working to their capacity.

I dislike the free hours because they have pretty much meant that my fees have gone up by pretty much the same amount as the other parents are saving, but there is no way at all on any planet that any of my childcare providers are making less than minimum wage

Twofishfingers Tue 12-Sep-17 13:39:39

If you are questioning the figures, I can tell you. As an Outstanding childminder, I look after 3 children part-time (some are 16 hours, some 40 hours), four days a week, plus on average 8 hours per week spent on admin, paperwork, planning and training (for which I am not paid). I don't get paid for holidays or sick days that I take. If I was to take only one child on the 'free' 30 hours of childcare, I would be making approximately £2000 less per year, so it would be for me a pay cut of around 15% and taking my salary to around £7.20 an hour, if I consider all my costs. That is below the minimum wage.

As I am sure you are aware, there are costs in running a business. Not all the money that parents pay me goes in my pocket. A large portion goes back into the business.

Spikeyball Tue 12-Sep-17 13:49:03

It is not free or accessible to children with sn who require more support than standard ratios. Those parents are being expect pay a lot more to cover the costs of that extra support.

glenthebattleostrich Tue 12-Sep-17 13:50:37

Needs, a childminder can only look after 3 under 5, then a further 3 ages 5-8. For me that's a day rate of £150 when full. Sounds wonderful doesn't it.

Out of that I have registration, insurance, increased contents insurance, increased utilities, outings, wipes, food, toys, consumables (craft stuff, paper etc), training, advertising, membership of professional bodies, extra waste disposal ...

The list goes on and on.

Last year was a great year for me. I made a profit of £12,000. That was for 55 hours with kids in the house, average 5 hours per week cpd, and all the prep work that goes into the job. So average 70 hours per week. That works out at £3.60 ish per hour. The woman who walks my neighbours dog makes 3 times that (and before you say it yes, I am seriously considering changing career.

Snap8TheCat Tue 12-Sep-17 13:55:28


What we receive may be above minimum wage but once expenses have been paid for it brings it below. Even at full capacity. Can you understand that?

TooStressyForMyOwnGood Tue 12-Sep-17 14:00:25

Thanks for raising this Layla, on here and at PMQs. Please, please continue to raise it.

As I said on Justine Greening's thread, I agree that the 30 funded hour's policy is completely flawed.

Certainly providers in my area are struggling to pay their staff the living wage (which is the minimum that should be aimed for surely). As you say, there is not enough funding and not enough places with a very real chance of places being reduced further as providers are forced to quit. The situation is dire.

Please continue to listen to what childcare professionals are saying. I note Justine has not been back to answer any posts, nor have there been any replies from anyone in the government as was promised hmm.

stella23 Tue 12-Sep-17 14:44:30

Why is the government asking one of the lowest paid worker to subsidise parents earning £100000 a year, nursery workers are often on nmw, and with all the Prep work added to it the hours they are working at home ofent brings this down to below minimum wage.

These workers are quality and trained and accountable, yet we are being asked to sarifice any pay increase for some very high earners. Why?

From the other side I run a preschool, I won't be extending my hours, as I would end up closing, if it wasn't for the voluntary contributions and the fundraising we do we wouldn't stilll be here.

Ofsted are every increasing their expectations and standards which all cost money, yet no one wants to pay.

They can't have it both ways, something either the standards or the cost has to give

stella23 Tue 12-Sep-17 14:48:17

Have a look at the Facebook page, champagne nurseries lomonade funding

shirtyQwerty Tue 12-Sep-17 15:11:31

@MNHQ - what does "shortly" mean?

If the 'crowd' is judged hostile, will they simply not appear?

artisancraftbeer Tue 12-Sep-17 15:15:46

I think parliament was quite busy last night, shirty, so perhaps she's had other things to thing about in the past 22 hours.

shirtyQwerty Tue 12-Sep-17 15:19:32


She voted in favour of the bill. Wonder if that'll be challenged.

I have an ominous feeling that as more people ask questions, the less obvious it is that more oppositionary ones can be ignored,

TopangaD Tue 12-Sep-17 15:40:13

We have been told that our nursery which is s private nursery won't be offering the free hours only council run nurseries. We use a private nursery as working parents the hours of council nurseries and sessions available are not workable.. ( is 2.5 he sessions) so creating this scheme supposedly to target and help working parents falls down as those I know who access council nurseries do not work and are sahm. We are still paying out almost my full wage in childcare. So it really doesn't help at all if it meant to be targeting the 'squeezed middle' or working parents or those wanting and needing to get back into work.

MadamedeChevreuse Tue 12-Sep-17 16:42:04

shirtyqwerty which bill are you talking about?

shirtyQwerty Tue 12-Sep-17 16:44:38

EU Withdrawl Bill

bangingmyheadoffabrickwall Tue 12-Sep-17 17:26:35

I am lucky in that I am going to be using the 30 hours without any issues.

I am splitting it between two childcare settings - school-based nursery and childminder - 9 hours at nursery (3 x 3 hours per day) and the remaining 21 hours at the childminder ( 2 x 10 hour days).

My childminder charges £3.50 per hour and she is receiving £3.87 from the LEA - so in effect she will be receiving MORE money for my child than she currently does.

However, chances are my childminder will charge me extra for meals etc despite the fact the money she receives for my child as part of the 21 hours will be £7.70 EXTRA per week than what she currently receives.

It makes me wonder how many childcare providers will be doing EXACTLY the same and claiming that the government are not providing enough funding when in fact they are.

I urge people to check to see how much funding their LEA is giving to their childcare provider and compare it against their hourly rate that they pay. IF the funding is BELOW what they pay per hour, fair enough, I would understand extras being added such as nappies, wipes, meals, snacks, drinks and outings etc. But if the funding is ABOVE what their hourly rate is, then I would question why anyone is having to pay extra IF they only use within their 30 hour allocation.

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