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Childcare in Bucks among most expensive in South East

The average hourly fee for childcare is now £5.75

Published by Mix96 News at 5:39am 6th February 2020. (Updated at 11:47am 6th February 2020) 4-minute read.

Childcare in Bucks among most expensive in South East

The average hourly fee for childcare in Bucks last year was £5.75

The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years warns providers across the country are struggling to stay afloat, thanks to rising costs and insufficient funding for the Government's 30 hours' free childcare scheme.

The average hourly fee charged by childcare providers for three and four year olds in Buckinghamshire was £5.75 in 2019, according to a Department for Education survey.

That was one of the highest charges in the South East, where the average was £5.37.

Fees in the area have increased over the past year, rising from £5.50 in 2018, following a national trend which saw a 2.4% hike across England.

Localised figures are rounded to the nearest 25p.

Families with both parents in work – or just one in single-parent households – who earn at least 16 hours minimum wage per week but less than £100,000 a year are entitled to 30 hours' free childcare weekly during term time.

But industry experts argue funding for the scheme does not cover provider's costs, pushing up the cost of childcare outside the funded hours.

PACEY says some smaller providers are being forced to shut up shop or join larger chains, leading to what it described as the "Tesco-isation" of childcare, and less choice for parents.

In Buckinghamshire, the number of Early Years childcare providers – those who care for children from birth up until five – registered with Ofsted fell from 1,080 in 2015 to 884 last year, a decrease of 18%.

Over the same period, the number of providers nationally dropped from 73,500 to 61,700, a 16% decline.

Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, said the current system was "untenable", and called for the Government to readdress its funding formula.

"The situation has been in this mess for far too long and this government needs to take action now," she said.

“We believe all of [the challenges] can be resolved if this government revisits its funding formula for early education entitlements so that it covers the current cost of delivering a place, and in future is linked to inflation."

A Buckinghamshire County Council spokesman said:

“Ofsted registered childcare providers in Buckinghamshire offer a range of benefits to parents and carers looking for childcare, including flexibility on working hours and type of care offered. Childcare providers provide a valuable service in supporting children’s early learning and development in the important years before school.

“All families, no matter what their financial circumstances, are automatically entitled to 15 hours of free childcare for their 3 and 4 year old children for 38 weeks of the year. In addition, families who are eligible can also claim a further 15 additional funded childcare, making a total of 30 hours funded childcare per week during school term time. However, where parents or carers require additional hours over and above the free entitlement, providers will determine their childcare charging structure and the council has no control over these additional rates. 

“Quality of childcare in Buckinghamshire is high; as of 31 December 2019, 98% of registered childcare providers in Buckinghamshire were rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. We have seen 22 new group-based providers open up in Buckinghamshire since April 2019.

“Families can check eligibility for the 15 additional funded hours at our website https://www.buckscc.gov.uk/services/education/early-years-and-childcare/funded-early-education-and-childcare/”

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