Twice as many children use school age childcare as nurseries…that stat attracted my immediate interest!
It’s in the News
As a childcare provider, I am an avid follower of all childcare related news. I am surprised that pre-school and nursery care attracts so much media interest, yet, after school, holiday and breakfast clubs, or ‘wraparound care’ as these club are often referred to, are overlooked. Without meaningful representation at Government level we are always interested in news and reports relating directly to our sector.
Annual Holiday Childcare Report
And, there is one report we mark our diaries: the Family Childcare Trust Summer Holiday Childcare (HC) report which is published annually. It was the second paragraph of this report which revealed the size of the wraparound care market.
Work & Play
The report states high quality childcare is essential for both families and the economy: as well as enabling parents to work, it gives children the opportunity to take part in positive activities that they might not otherwise access. It is this mix of work-facilitating childcare, exciting opportunities and engaging adult-led activities that provide every day of the school holidays.
We understand and agree that childcare costs are high. Private childcare providers, especially in the wraparound care sector, can get a bit of a ‘bad rap’. This seems to be less true of nurseries where parent/carers welcome private provision. We occasionally hear negative associations of private care providers who put profit above children. I would sincerely hope that everyone who is involved with Class Of Their Own whether as a child, parent/carer or team member would know that this is not how we operate, and I suspect it is rare in the sector overall. Put simply, we are only as good as our reputation. If we are not putting the needs of the children at the forefront of what we do, parent/carers would soon make different choices.
It’s all about quality
As a company we have invested heavily in the quality of our provision. There are numerous internal measures we use to assess quality. We also have external inspections from Ofsted, and are proud of our record of outstanding inspections. This quality is not accidental, it requires time and money to make clubs great.
Money, money, money
By far and away the main driver of fee increases is increased costs. Back in the good old days, when we set up the company in 2001, there was a huge drive to get more women into work, and significant funding was available to fledgling childcare providers to help support the start-up costs of new clubs. And that was not all. DBS costs were met by the Government for Ofsted registered childcare providers. The Local Authority had a training budget to provide First Aid, NVQ and other childcare related training to registered clubs. We were also able to claim sustainability funding to support clubs without sufficient attendance to be self-sustaining. Everything changed following the 2008 financial crash.
Financial support was gradually withdrawn and by 2013 we were funding everything ourselves. Since then the minimum wage has increased and pensions have become payable. We are VAT exempt. This has the benefit of making all childcare VAT free, which is, of course, a laudable concept. But, the consequence of this is we pay VAT on all purchases and are not able to claim it back – this makes our expenditure 20% higher than that of, for example, other businesses or schools.
Breaking News – Holiday Childcare is more expensive than Term Time!
There are some points in the report that I think could do with some childcare provider clarity. The report finds Holiday Childcare is, more expensive than After School Club, and on average, 2.4 times more expensive that term time childcare. Given a term time session is 3.25 hours and holiday club 9 hours (or 2.76 times longer), it is not surprising there is a difference in costs. The report does make the case that this makes it difficult for budgeting, which is true, however, I found the main point designed to be a headline grabbing statement.
The average price of holiday childcare is said to be £133 per week. It is not clear anywhere in the report what hours these figures cover, so it is impossible to assess our prices against those in the report.
What can be done?
Family and Childcare Trust call for urgent action to support families for school-aged children. We would support this. There are simple things that can be done to help reduce costs. The VAT situation is apparently the result of an anomaly from ‘olden times’ when childcare was seen as a ‘woman’s issue’ and as such fell under health legislation. For reasons which are not entirely clear, this means the Department for Education cannot change the VAT rate for childcare providers without significant and costly changes to legislation.
A fair rent policy to provide security to providers and ensure schools were not able to unilaterally increase rent. Upfront payment for the childcare element of the Universal Credit, as called for in the report, is an idea we would whole-heartedly support.
We would love to be able to provide a more inexpensive, flexible solution for working parent/carers and their children. For all our existing users, know we are doing what we can to keep prices affordable and we look forward to welcoming lots of you over the summer holidays!