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Another 'free' hours question

(19 Posts)
LizzieMint Wed 19-Mar-14 21:27:20

I was reading the thread about the 15 'free' hours childcare where the OP had complained to her council about the nursery overcharging for additional hours because I've got a sort of similar issue with my nursery at the moment.
My daughter goes for 1 morning session and 1 'full day' session (8:30 - 3:30) a week and gets a total of 9 funded hours a week (she actually attends for 12 hours in total). Before she got funded hours, I paid for the full day session but once she got funding the manager said she should be entitled to attend for just the 'funded' hours which run 1-4pm in the afternoon session. However, the nursery have now said she can't do that and I have to pay extra for the hours 4-6pm which she is not there for. They are charging this additional 2 hours at £17.84 whereas the free hours work out at £3.72 per hour - I know the extra hours also cover food etc.

According to what I've found online so far, they are firstly not supposed to charge the funded hours at a different rate to the non-funded hours, and they are also not supposed to insist we pay for hours she's not there as it's making her free hours conditional on me paying for extra hours she doesn't use.

The only official guidelines I can find are cached ones on the old department of education website - apparently everything's moved to but I can't find any trace. Our local council's only statement on their website is basically - don't bring us into this, we don't want to know!
Does anyone have any advice on what I can do next?

breatheslowly Wed 19-Mar-14 21:39:01

I think you are wrong about not charging funded hours at a different rate to the non-funded hours. The can't make any charge for the funded hours. They can charge what they like for non-funded hours. However £17.84 sounds like a lot for 2 hours, though maybe not for London.

The national requirements here make it clear that provision of funded hours can't be conditional for paying for other services.

Your local authority will have specific rules and can provide you with information about what is/isn't allowed.

HSMMaCM Thu 20-Mar-14 05:59:15

Agree with breatheslowly. They can't charge for funded hours. They can charge what they like for other hours. They cannot make you take the other hours though.

LizzieMint Thu 20-Mar-14 09:29:25

Sorry I didn't mean that they are charging me for the funded hours but that they have given them a value of £3.72 an hour - so the full daily rate is £59 (for 10 hours) if you use 2 sessions at 3 hours each, they take off 6x£3.72 (22.32) and charge £36.68 for the remaining 4 hours, which is an hourly rate of £9.17. As I understand it, what they are meant to do is give you the free hours free at their normal rate - as it's a 10 hour day, that's £5.90 an hour, so the final four hours should be charged at £23.60. I know this is over-simplified because it doesn't take into meals which are included in the day rate and aren't included in the free hours. Hope that makes sense!!

TiggyCBE Thu 20-Mar-14 09:41:41

Their normal rate is £5.90.
The government pay £3.72 on your behalf for the 'free' sessions.
Every hour your child is doing free, the nursery loses £2.18.

Sounds like your nursery is sneaking in top up fees. They're not allowed to do that. They and the other 80% of nurseries who lose money on this scheme should just stop offering 'free' places.

LizzieMint Thu 20-Mar-14 10:30:09

That's what I think, tiggy, but I'm trying to find evidence that categorically states they are not allowed to do this. The local council say on their website - any issues you have with payment have to be resolved with the childcare provider, it's nothing to do with us.
So I think there are two issues - firstly they are sneaking in top up fees and secondly they are insisting I pay for hours my daughter doesn't use.

HSMMaCM Thu 20-Mar-14 11:15:15

As I said, they can charge what they like for additional hours if you want them. If you don't want or need them, they can't force you to take them.

ElizabethDarcy Fri 21-Mar-14 20:38:15

£3.72 an hour... No wonder so many nurseries are stopping the funded hours. Not sustainable at all. Many just about break even every month. In London most nurseries who offer it offer it to a very few as they do actually want to pay their overheads, maintain high quality of care/resources/staffing etc. If you are getting it, you are lucky.

I'd err on the side of caution if you complain - because they might very well just stop offering it altogether. It's a lot of extra paperwork... for what? To help the local families receive free/cheap funding for their children.. there is NOTHING in it for nurseries.

breatheslowly Fri 21-Mar-14 21:42:57

I think you're right. That is effectively charging top up fees. Are you sure that your council means they won't discuss fees, as opposed to how payments are made? Do they have a phone number?

breatheslowly Fri 21-Mar-14 21:48:08

I think nurseries in some areas would find it difficult to compete if they stopped offering the funded hours as many people would choose the ones that still offered funded hours, even when their child was years away from getting funded hours.

Our nursery is more expensive than others in the area, but does give the 15 hours completely free. We sucked up the additional cost before DD was eligible for her free hours as it was going to improve when her funding came it.

Permanentlyexhausted Fri 21-Mar-14 22:17:07

It's a long while since this applied to me but this is how I understand it to work-

The government provide funding for 15 hours of free nursery/pre-school care. They have decided that is worth �3.72 per hour. If you send your child to (generally) a pre-school you will get 15 hours of free childcare. These sort of settings often fundraise (a lot!) to raise extra cash. If you send your child to a private day nursery, their hourly rate is often more than the government allows for so they will claim for the 15 hours from the government and reduce your bill by that amount.

In other words, your nursery is reducing your bill by 9 x �3.72 - the amount they can claim from the government. It is the only sensible way for it to work. Why should the nursery make up the shortfall for what is a government initiative? Why should the government pay more for one child than another just because one attends a more expensive setting?

I guess the reason you're paying for the two hours you're not using at the end of the day is because your child is booked in for a 'full day' and therefore you are paying the 'full day' rate, minus the six funded hours. I'm guessing the funded hours are something like 9-12 and 1-4. Your daughter could attend for just the funded hours for free, as long as you removed her at 12 and brought her back at 1.

Sorry, that's probably as clear as mud.

breatheslowly Fri 21-Mar-14 23:01:51

"Why should the nursery make up the shortfall?" Because that is the legal/contractual requirement. It isn't an ideal situation, but the OP shouldn't be required to make a top up payment in the way she has described.

ElizabethDarcy Sat 22-Mar-14 10:38:04

The OP then needs to stick to the hours the nursery offers that are funded only.

LizzieMint Sun 23-Mar-14 09:58:17

My daughter does only attend for the funded hours in the afternoon session (I'm more than happy to pay the extra for the morning session, because I use it). But the nursery have said, despite this and despite saying that attendance for funded-only hours is possible, that it's not possible for my daughter. I'm trying to get a clear answer out of them as to why - I suspect it's because they never expected anyone to request it!!
Unfortunately, it's the only nursery or preschool in our area so I am a bit stuck with them.

breatheslowly Sun 23-Mar-14 13:22:37

I agree with ElizabethDarcy - you need to get s straight answer from them about how a child could attend for funded hours only. I think many nurseries only let you have free hours in the afternoon.

Mandy21 Sun 23-Mar-14 19:39:16

I think it may depend on where you are. I have sent children to nurseries in 2 different authorities and both nurseries simply gave us back the funding they got from the government and we still paid full fees. So, we paid normal fees, and when the nursery received the money from the LA, they simply gave the parents a cheque for the same amount. It is against the guidelines but I think LAs turn a blind eye too it because they know nurseries can't afford to cover the shortfall (and if nurseries have to close, that is an issue for the LA).

Littlemisstax Mon 24-Mar-14 10:16:08

DD's nursery has a daily rate of £45. She gets funding and that reduces my daily cost to £35. She no longer gets the full day discount so each paid hour costs more. She could just attend for the sessions covered by funding (8-11 am and/or 3-6pm) but they have been chosen quite cleverly so that in practice everyone will pay for the full morning/afternoon/day. As I need full days it doesn't bother me, I'm just relieved the cost has come down.

It looks like your nursery is trying to do something similar but isn't as smart about it.

LizzieMint Mon 24-Mar-14 16:05:37

OK, so the nursery's reasoning is basically that because they pay their staff until 6pm, I have to pay for those hours because the staff member is there anyway. With that reasoning, I can't see any way that they'd actually agree to just the funded hours, even though they say in their information sheet about it that it is possible to attend for just the funded hours. I'm obviously the first person who's asked about it! Question has been referred to the owners, I'll see what they say.

breatheslowly Tue 25-Mar-14 09:03:33

In full day nurseries I think that the staff may work shifts as the nursery hours are longer than a normal work day. A nursery could arrange the staff shifts to have more in the middle of the day and most probably do.

Or they can employ part time staff. My DD's nursery employ some staff for school hours, term time only. That covers free hours and I think you might get better staff as they tend to be well qualified, experienced staff with their own children, working around school hours.

I think that nurseries may not want to offer shorter hours as buildings have a maximum capacity and they would prefer to fill a place for 10 hours than 6. This depends on the nursery being close to capacity.

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