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Has anyone successfully challenged their nursery over charging top up fees with early years funding?

(22 Posts)
bangersmashandbeans Wed 27-Feb-13 16:32:53

Just that really! Mine have told me in an email they charge top up fees but state that in the bill it will be shown as the cost for the compulsory fourth hour per day so it is therefore allowable. Has anyone any experience in successfully challenging such a situation?

bangersmashandbeans Wed 27-Feb-13 20:02:30


ilovepeanuts Thu 28-Feb-13 00:44:20

Hiya - I own a nursery and I get really pissed off with people doing this.

You should be able to access the free hours FOR FREE! You should not be obliged to buy any more hours, so making you take a compulsory fourth hour is a load of twaddle.

You also should not be charged top up fees.

I personally would send the email to your local Families Information Service (you'll find them on your Council website) and check if they allow it.

bangersmashandbeans Thu 28-Feb-13 01:10:57

Thank you. I spoke to the council EYFE dept and she said they can not charge top up fees but can stipulate hours (as my nursery run 4 hour sessions anyone insisting on just 3 would 'disrupt the day') and can charge whatever they like for the extra hours. The nursery have told me they would charge £17.63 for the fourth hour!!!
However the admin girl kindly broke down this charge for me in her email as 'making up the difference' between the nursery's hourly rate and what they get from the council for the first 'free' three hours plus the normal hourly rate for the fourth. When I questioned this as being top up fees she said it was allowable as on my bill it would appear as only the charge for the fourth hour. I'm hoping as the silly girl put all this in black and white for me I may have a good case to take to the local council?

southwest Thu 28-Feb-13 01:25:27

I take your point but wouldnt you just find that they were suddenly 'full'?

bangersmashandbeans Thu 28-Feb-13 02:57:36

I thought that too but in her email she also kindly confirmed that they have availability for my daughter for the days and hours I requested.

Tanith Thu 28-Feb-13 08:22:16

I offer the free entitlement and we've been told that any extra hours must be charged at the normal rate: eg, if your nursery is charging £6 per hour, they must charge £6 for that extra hour. It's discriminating against the free entitlement children to do anything else.

Are they saying their normal hourly rate is £17?!

I told this to one of my mums who was using a prep school nursery and she successfully challenged it. The child went on to gain a bursary from the school (I told her about that, too smile) so they certainly didn't hold it against her.

They probably had a good mutter about me in the bursar's office, though wink

bangersmashandbeans Thu 28-Feb-13 10:08:56

Thanks Tanith, that gives me some confidence. I think the fact that the nursery have laid it out very clearly in their email to me means they shouldn't have a leg to stand on in theory? It just annoys me that they are blatantly flouting the regs in order to remain 'elitist' angry

SlumdogMummy Fri 01-Mar-13 09:37:51

We requested a breakdown as DS goes for 5 hours (8-1) twice a week; we beieved these would be free when he turned 3.
Turns out, instead of paying 55% of what we initially paid shock
We are charged for meals (fair enough) and the hours 8-9 and 12-1 as these are "non-educational" times. Somehow that works out to over half of our monthly payments with 3/5 of the time now being "free"
It has taken a lot of emailing to find ut what we are paying for and to get monthly breakdowns of our payments.

Littlefish Sun 03-Mar-13 12:34:51

In order for nurseries to be eligible to offer the 15 hours funding, a child must be able to acces just 15 hours completely free. I get so cross when I hear about nurseries charging top ups, or insisting on additional hours. this is completely against the terms of their agreement with the local authority. They should either refuse to take the funding, or fully comply with the terms. Grrrrrr.

bangersmashandbeans Sun 03-Mar-13 13:22:48

That was my understanding as well. I've emailed the EYFE dept of the council but their reply suggests to me that they turn a blind eye..

SlumdogMummy Sun 03-Mar-13 15:12:24

Our nursery only charges for 'educational' time and have said DS can just attend for these hours. Still feel like it's a bit of a con though.

Tanith Mon 04-Mar-13 09:05:24

Makes me cross, too, Littlefish.

If I, as a childminder, can manage to stick to the terms laid down, why should the Council turn a blind eye to the private nurseries and prep schools?

Not sustainable isn't good enough. They should lobby for more funding or resign from the scheme.
Defrauding parents out of their entitlement is, in my opinion, the sign of a poor nursery - what other rules are they disregarding?

bangersmashandbeans Mon 04-Mar-13 11:13:46

They've got me over a barrel though as I only need them for the rest of this school year as DD has a place at a proper pre school in September. I just don't see how they can get away with it now they have fully admitted they charge top up fees?

Bobothebuilder Mon 04-Mar-13 15:55:33

I have sympathy for both sides here to be honest. Whilst I think it is unair of your nursery to make up their true hourly rate by makingnit appear that the fourth hour costs £17 (which it clearly doesn't and goes against the spirit if it the actual rules of EYF), on the other hand it seems to a well known fact that nurseries don't get anywhere near enough funding to cover costs in terms of these alled 15 hours 'free' grant.

In the nursery my son goes to they do empower a fully qualified graduate Early years teacher whose core hours are 9 to 4, so It makes sense that the vast majority of the learning activities will occur during these hours ie from 9 to 12 or 1 to 4 in this case. It seems very fair to expect parents who want extra hours to pay a reasonable rate for them but I agree it should be whatever the usual going rate is, not an over inflated price.

That said most places offering the EYf hours are in fact privately run businesses and lets face it if they don't make money they will go out of business won't they, and if the local authorise clamp down too much then it follows less places will accept children for the funded hours which won't be good either.

jdey1969 Sat 23-Mar-13 09:17:56

I'm trying to do that right now. I've taken the complaint against Merton Council to the Department of Education for failing to ensure that the nursery my child goes to doesn't charge a "top up fee".

Merton have colluded with the nursery to try to establish a loophole in the law by introducing the concept of a 2-tier fee structure, where the funded hours are allegedly normally charged at a lower rate than the unfunded hours.

I first complained to Merton Council in December and the Department of Education in January. Merton have just concluded their investigation, so I've escalated it back to the DofEd.

jdey1969 Sun 24-Mar-13 06:53:10

Nurseries are always claiming that one of the reasons for spiralling nursery costs in the UK is that they're subsidising the early years funding, yet it's working parents who are actually doing this by being charged a higher rate for the unfunded hours than they were charged for the same hours prior to the early years funding kicking in.

In addition to this, even for the 15 "free" hours, they're trying to profit out of that by making it really difficult for parents to put their children in for 15 hours or less and/or charging top up fees for additonal services, which is illegal.

With spiralling nursery fees and no evidence that their costs are going up, it's clear that private nurseries are making very large profits from working parents, and are not on the verge of bankruptcy as many of them suggest.

EldonAve Sun 24-Mar-13 07:07:23

I've not challenged ours
I fully expect the nursery would withdraw from the scheme so I'm £500 a term better off by leaving it

keele Sun 24-Mar-13 10:45:04

We are a private nursery and we offer just 15 hours to be taken 5x3 hours or 2x6 hours and1x3 hours. parents can opt to extend the day and just pay for the time over the 15 hours but its no where near £17.. That is our morning session cost!. If the nursery want to be in the scheme they have to adjust their day to accommodate it!

Leighanne89 Sun 30-Apr-17 07:50:26

My daughter is in nursery 17 hours a week. She receives 15 hours free. The nursery she attends is charging me 200 a month for 2 hours a week and meals.. please tell me what I can do as I can't afford this.
I have tried to challenge the manager and she told me they charge me top up which they can do...

peukpokicuzo Sun 30-Apr-17 08:37:47

Hi Leighanne This is a zombie thread from 4 years ago so I guess you found it from a Google search which would also have found the other hundreds of theads we have had on the subject. Overall these tend to be about 20% of people wanting the thing they want to be cheaper and 80% of people patiently explaining that isn't possible.

There are nurseries that do genuinely offer the 15 hours actually free. These tend to be nurseries attached to primary schools which offer only hours during school hours and only open during term time (the 15 hours is only for 39 weeks a year so is actually only 11.25 hours a week if the nursery is open all year round) - or sometimes nurseries attached to sure start centres/places where sure start centres used to be before being cut. These nurseries offer a level of service that fits with the funding they have and will have lower staff ratios and less good resources.

Lots of people want to choose a nursery offering a level of service - in terms of staffing and resources - that costs about £5-£7 to provide. Those nurseries cannot stay open as a viable business if they are forced to provide the service for the much smaller sum of the government subsidy. It is not reasonable to resent them for whatever they need to charge in order to cover the cost of the service they offer.

Your charge of £200 per month is £2,400 per year=£46.15 per week. I don't know how much your nursery get from the government (it can vary) but if the actual cost of providing the service is around £6.50 an hour but the government subsidy is only £4.50 then they have to charge that level of additional fee (2*6.50 for the full price hours plus 15x the difference) one way or another or they will make a loss and go out of business.

If you can't afford it then unfortunately you need to look for a cheaper childcare option elsewhere which you can afford. You can't demand that this nursery must become cheaper.

matchmade Tue 02-May-17 15:59:46

Thank you peukpokicuzo for this useful summary. I too find this old thread via Google. My wife and I currently have to fund our 2-year old's childcare ourselves, using vouchers and now the new Taxfree Childcare scheme. We will be very grateful for the 30 "free" hours when our daughter turns 3, and think it entirely fair that our childminder and nursery charge top-up payments, so they can continue to receive the right overall income to pay for the level of service they give us.

A good analogy might be with social care for elderly people: the State will pick up the tab for a care home or nursing home once someone runs out of money (or most of it), but this is at a very basic level and family members are allowed to top this money up and send their loved one to a higher-quality home if they can afford it.

I see no reason why parents should not be allowed to purchase a higher quality of childcare if they wish - to insist otherwise is to force every child to receive exactly the same type and level of childcare, at the low level of funding that the Government is currently able to offer. Instead of complaining about the funding level, we should be grateful we are getting any help at all, at a time when the country is struggling financially and is taking out £60 billion of extra debt every year.

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