Some advice about free funding please(19 Posts)
My DCs Nursery has just revised their Gov funding terms and to say I'm a bit peeved is an understatement!
They have dictated that they will only provide the funding on set session times. In my case 9am to 4pm - they are then asking for an additional £11? They have provided a breakdown of this:
Session price 9-4 = £34.97 minus 2 vouchers at £12.06 = £10.91 to pay.
They are saying that the non funded time is over lunch so we're also liable for £2.50 a session for food.
To top it off they will be increasing their fees by 4% from March.
They have provided no sessions that don't have addition fees. DD1 (3) only uses 4 vouchers a week but we can't carry the extra one over.
Can anyone tell me if this sounds right please?
Thanks for reading this mammoth and very dull post!
I think it probably does sound about right - I think each LEA has a different policy - in my area, each individual nursery can specify the length of the sessions and which day they offer them (for example some of the pre-schools only offer mornings, some offer just afternoons etc). If you want childcare outside of those hours then yes, they are entitled to ask for it. They're also entitled to charge you for the food - thats not included in any government funding.
What I would be annoyed at however is that they've introduced a change to the terms and conditions after you've signed up.
Contact your local authority early years dept -try Family Information Service, they may be able to deal directly or point you to the right person.
The key thing I feel you need to tell them is that you are unable to access ONLY the funded time without paying a topup fee. So you can not just have say some morning sessions 9-11:30 or something like that.
Funded time does not include lunchtime, so the nursery I feel is right to charge for that time between funded sessions, if you decide to stay for lunch, and to charge for food. However you do not seem to be getting the option of not staying for lunch, thus the key point above.
Funded sessions only apply for a certain number of weeks per year. I've seen some LA funding forms give a max hours per term. So if your child attends all year round, rather than term time only, do check which weeks are funded and which are not.
The problem is that the funding provided by the LA is nowhere near enough to cover the fees. Very very few nurseries (if any) could afford to offer only the funded hours and nothing else. They have to charge extra for the additional hours in order to make good the losses made on the funded hours.
Nurseries would go out of business if everyone only came for the so-called "free hours".
What vouchers? In England you do not get Vouchers for nursery education funding (children aged 3+). You get up to 15 hours of pre-school education per week, term time only.
The local authority provides a certain amount of money to the provider for those hours, but the provider cannot deduct that value amount from the parents bill, they must deduct the hours.
I'm in Surrey and that's how it works here. If I can find it, would a link to Information for Childcare Providers be useful? It will only be relevant to those in Surrey but should give an idea of how local authorities deal with the funding. You can then check exactly how your local authority deals with the funding, as there may be some differences.
You are entitled to 15 hours a week free. How these are split depends on the childcare provider and the rules of the local authority. From what you have said, it sounds like they are allowing you 6 hours out of a 7 hour day to be funded (I assume this as you refer to 5 sessions with 2 taken each day and one left over).
The vouchers each pay for 3 hours, so you should only be expected to pay for 1 hour (£34.97/7= £5) plus lunch which isn't covered as the provision is early learning, not early learning + food. I think you should therefore be paying £7.50 for that hour plus lunch. They can't ask you to pay the difference between their usual rate and what they receive in funding for the funded hours, so should not be charging more than this.
To clarify the situation you can look up your local authority rules on the web or give them a ring and discuss it as they are able to enforce the "no top up payment for funded hours". If the local authority has more relaxed approach to how the hours can be used (some require them to be used over a minimum of 3 days) then it is at the nursery's discretion whether or not they choose to offer these sessions.
The can also ask you to pay for the full session if the session is outside term time as they are funded for term time only (probably 39 weeks per year).
The LA cannot dictate what nurseries charge for the unfunded hours. If they want to charge the difference between the funding and their fees then they can - can't they? Surely the LA can't interfere with a business's charging policy?
The nursery agrees to the terms of the funding. So funded hours are controlled. Unfunded are not controlled but I do not think the nursery can insist hat a child stays for unfunded hours.
The amount that the nursery is asking for for the unfunded hour is disproportionate and therefore suggests that they are using it as a top-up rather than just charging for the additional time. I agree with the other posters, if there is a choice not to take the unfunded lunchtime and take the child home then the nursery can charge that as it is avoidable.
Thank you for all the replies!
I contacted our local Family Information Service (FIS)- they we're confused but said that "top ups" are against policy but they couldn't say for sure if my nursery are doing this.
I contacted the Nursery who got very defensive and said that they don't top up. It's just that they only run certain session times and therefore, they don't deal with the hours of free funding, only the value of the vouchers. I'm pretty sure that they're not playing by the rules.
To further annoy me, I was told that my 9mo would have to attend a set session also, adding another hours cost per day. That's on top of the 4% increase.
I'm going to have to consider taking DD2 out, I simply can't afford to pay £140+ a week for 2 days of childcare non term time.
I will send the details to the FIS for them to investigate.
Thanks again for the advice!
There are no vouchers, eligible children get 15hrs per week for 38wks a year, the hours can be 3 per day, 5hrs over 3 days or even 2 7hr days it's up to the provider. Childminders offering free places can be more flexible usually but a nursery will need to do set sessions to ensure places aren't left empty & for staff/child ratios etc
Whatever the outcome, it doesn't sound like a very nice nursery. Is there anywhere else you could look at going instead?
This "15 free hours and no top up fees" is a nonsense, isn't it. The policy was supposed to be designed to encourage parents to go back to work. If a nursery can simply introduce a 2-tier fee structure, where the hours above 15 are charged at a higher rate then they normally charge, there are no free hours for parents who work, as hardly any parents can work for just 15 hours.
15 free hours is about nursery education not enabling parents to work. Politicians just like to throw it around when they are trying to sound family friendly.
"The policy was supposed to be designed to encourage parents to go back to work."
No, it wasn't.
The policy was designed to enable ALL 3 and 4 year olds to have the best start to education. The research frm the EPPE project shows that those children who attended a high quality pre-school setting did better at school than those children who didn't.
I am feeling a bit stupid...I have three year old twins - who will be 4 in October - we live in Camden. I think I am organised for their school in SEptember 2014 but I am confused as to what free childcare I can expect in SEptember - at the moment they each get 15 hours free nursery hours during term time - I travel across the bough at the moment to take them to nursery as I was eligible for those 15 hours on the two year old scheme - which in desperation I took up last SEptember - the great thing about the place they are now - apart from the fact its miles away - is that they let me spilt my free hours over four days - so I get a break from them spread over the week. I have put them down for a couple of nursery places at local schools for september but those places are fought over and I am not that confident that I will get places - what can I expect for free ? - next term they will be turning 4? I am doing work experience at the moment with a view going back to work in the Autumn but obviously childcare will be a consideration.....
Roselover They'll have been getting funding (for 3yr olds) from the term after they turned 3, so from January this year (thats the free 15 hours they're currentlly getting). I presume if they get school nursery places, that will be for free (here it is 5 x 3 hour morning sessions, or 5 x 3 hr afternoon sessions so not great if you're working normal office hours. I guess if they doon't get school nursery places, you'll just carry on getting the 15 hours free at the nursery they currently attend.
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