Parents navigating the new Government childcare system are finding themselves in Catch-22 situations - with one parent having to pay to access the "free" hours.
Working mums are dealing with not only the 'mum guilt' of going back to work after having a baby but also the worry of how much does a baby cost forcing them to take on extra hours or cut short their maternity leave and this can take its toll, especially if they don't know how to explain the mental load to their partner.
A government scheme, which was introduced back in September 2010, which is supposed to give 15 hours of "free" childcare a week is proving difficult for parents to access. The Department for Education (the Department) introduced an entitlement to 15 hours of free childcare per week for all three and four-year-olds in England. In 2013, it extended this to include two-year-olds from disadvantaged families. And from April 2024, eligible working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of childcare support. And from September 2024, 15 hours of childcare support will be extended to eligible working parents of children from the age of nine months to three-year-olds.
But the scheme is being criticised by the Pregnant then Screwed (PTS) charity for being too complex to access, saying parents are in "complete chaos" trying to access the "free hours".
Since the start of the year, parents have been able to apply for a code to access the scheme before it starts again on April 1 but so far, only 11 per cent of 6,000 parents surveyed have been able to get their codes for their two-year-olds.
The charity said: “(The survey) finds that parents are in complete chaos trying to access the new 15 hours ‘free’ childcare scheme from the Government.”
Some parents are experiencing issues with trying to get their code but having the website send them in an "endless loop" while others have complained about being "sent on a wild goose chase" with incorrect advice obtained from the childcare helpline.
And that's not the only hold-up - while more than half (55 per cent) have found a childcare provider who is accepting codes for the new scheme, more than a third (34 per cent) say their preferred provider cannot confirm whether it will accept codes, “likely due to providers not having the necessary information from their local authority”.
One parent told GoodtoKnow, "Nothing I need is free" as she experienced the childcare minefield. And a mum-of-three told The Standard, “On Jan 2, my nursery dropped the bombshell that they ‘cannot afford to continually take a hit on the deficit between our daily rate and what we are receiving from the Government – even with charging parents a consumable (top up)’ so, therefore, they are opting out of the 15/30 hour government funding from April 2024.”
Meanwhile, parents have been told they cannot apply for a code until their “reconfirmation window” in their government childcare account opens. Many survey participants said this will not happen until late March, just days before the scheme is due to start, with a small number reporting that their window opens in April after the scheme starts, according to PTS.
In other family news, it comes as “This is not the answer” – why the latest government scheme to increase school attendance has enraged parents, and we totally get it and Rishi Sunak launches crackdown on ALL parents to cut the number of kids holidaying during term time, but families believe the issue ‘isn’t the parents’.
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Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)
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