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Nursery forcing us to take up 40 hours and massive fee increase(9 Posts)
I think that our nursery new fee policy (Cambridge nursery owned by a national chain - takeover 6 months ago) is breaking governments rules over 30 hours free extended entitlement and I would like you to investigate if what they are doing is lawful.
They have given us three weeks warning of new fees increases in January, set out in a confusing letter without the offer of a meeting.
We qualify for 30 free hours for our 3 year old. They have informed us we have to take 40 hours (so 4 days rather than the 3 she is currently in for)- which we don’t need. The extra hours above the 22 hours (they are spreading the entitlement over 52 weeks) are being charged at £9.20 per hour while the standard hourly rate is £5.80 (this £5.80 itself is an increase of more than 10%).
This means I can no longer access my free 30 hours ‘for free’. This is now going to cost me £609 from January 1st. I have only been paying £0 for 21 hours - except during holiday periods when I pay £107 per week (since my daughter turned 3).
I’ve only just found out about this. The letter is opaque and not at all clear.
This new fee is more than I was paying for 21 hours when my daughter started the nursery at 1 year old as we used to pay by the hour (rather than sessions). Surely this is not right, we are now worse off and we’re supposed to be benefiting from 30 free hours from the government!
We can’t afford this £600+ increase with such little notice and it will leave us without childcare. It’s straight after Christmas too.
Can you let me know what our rights are?
The contact we have been given for the nursery chain is on leave until 11th December which is not helpful either!
Are they acting legally? I’ve contacted the family information service by email setting out these concerns.
Oops sorry about the ‘would like to investigate what is lawful ‘ that was copied from email to FIS!
Any advice anyone has would be appreciated
It doesn't sound right from what you've told us here, but please be aware that the takeover may have happened because the previous owners were forced out of business by the 30 free hours. The government are not paying nurseries what it costs to provide the places, so many are asking for extra money elsewhere. Also nurseries do not have to offer ALL the spaces free.
If you can't make it work with this nursery, you may have to move. You can ask your Local Authority about the legality of their charging structure.
My nursery does the same. The 30 hours can only be used on a full time place then they add food costs etc so a full week including the ‘free’ hours is £125. This is because the government only gives them £3 something per hour for the ‘free’ hours and if doesn’t cover their costs. You need to try and find a nursery that doesn’t do this but it is very common around here.
Nurseries are allowed to determine which times the 30 free hours are offered - so if the nursery has decided that the free hours are offered between - for example they can state that free hours can only be used 8.00-12.30 Mon-Fri over 52 weeks) - parents are expected to pay for hours taken outside these times.
Nurseries are losing a lot of money because of the "free hours" policy - the Government funds them at less than it costs nurseries to provide them. Many will go and are going out of business.
It will explain the funding crisis
Interesting responses thanks
I worked out what it would cost our new baby at 9 months old to go into nursery 5 days a week- so that’s 50 hours a week. We wouldn’t need this many hours, but It’s £1018 per month which feels like good value for money.
Then I worked out how much they would make from my 3 year old daughter. It’s £1027 per month including the money we would pay plus the funding for the 30 free hours over 38 weeks from government (they get £4.40 per hour for our daughter from our local authority in term time). This is just for 40 hours. Surely that is not right when we’re talking about lower staff to children ratios - plus no nappies for potty trained children.
This nursery is definitely not in financial crisis- they are milking it to make more profit from 3 year olds than 9 month olds. This cannot be right.
The previous nursery was sold due to retirement. I have every sympathy with the sector but I do feel this nursery chain is taking advantage of the situation.
I’m looking at alternatives
A nursery can change its fees without consulting with parents. As with any other business, they do not need customers' permission to change their price structure. That said, I would have expected four weeks' notice for any such substantive change to the contract (or the same amount of time as would apply when giving notice to terminate.)
You should contact your local authority to enquire about local rules under which the funded (erroneously called 'free') hours are delivered. The following is based on the general national guidelines.
Nurseries can choose to offer up to 15 or up to 30 funded hours. They can offer 'additional services' such as meals, music classes, trips, and extra hours for which the parents pay. The funded hours must be offered with no obligation to take up any additional services. In that sense, they should not be forcing you to take 40 hours.
They can offer the funded hours at times of their choosing, as 'funded sessions' rather than the precise times you want. These sessions might be broken up across the week in such a way that you end up needing to pay for additional hours in order to have childcare at the time you want.
At my DDs Nursery all free hours whether 15 or 30 hours can only be used 9-12am, and 1-4pm, and you have to pay for the lunch hour if leaving for lunch even if you provide your own food, and for 7.30-8am and 4-6pm. So that could be were all the costs come in. I get charged £3.75 an hour and still pay £300 a month as DD has all her meals and snacks there.
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