Rhiannon Meades, Labour Mid Bedfordshire
Rhiannon Meades, Labour Mid Bedfordshire

During the general election campaign in 2017 I met a small rural nursery owner who set out in stark terms how the Conservative model of funding the Early Years sector has been botched so badly that nurseries are at risk of going under. I took my concerns to Tracy Brabin, our shadow Early Years minister. I am very aware of this issue.  I was very pleased to see the following briefing from Tracy Brabin alongside the Labour announcement for increased Early Years provision:

“The Tories have failed staff and providers in the Early Years sector, Labour won’t.

As the people who work tirelessly every day in the early years sector, you know better than most the ability of early years education to transform the life chances of a child.

The experiences a child has in their early years deeply affects their future physical, cognitive, emotional and social development and a good early years education can close attainment gaps and stop disadvantaged children falling behind their more affluent peers.

That’s why I’m so proud that we have announced that the next Labour Government will invest in a new generation of Sure Start, as well as expanding the 30 hours of free early years education to all 2-4 year olds, with additional hours at subsidised rates, unlocking the potential of all our children.

The Tories are failing an entire generation of children and this cannot go on. Over recent years there has been a dramatic slowing down in the closure of the disadvantage gap, to the point that it could now take 560 years to close.

But it’s not just our children they are failing, it’s our early years staff and providers too.

In my role as shadow minister for early years, I have heard from countless childcare providers that the hourly rate they receive from the Government for the current 30 hours free is simply not enough.

In our conversations they have told me the impact that underfunding is having on their businesses, with many having to undertake difficult cost cutting exercises like reduce staff training, lower staff-child ratios and cut back on the learningresources.

I know that this is not a decision providers take lightly, but the chronic underfunding of the childcare system means they have little choice. Earlier this year, Ceeda published research that found that for three and four-year-olds, the gap between average costs and the average hourly funding rate is now 20 per cent.

It’s not a surprise that almost 1 in 5 providers in the most deprived areas think they are at risk of closure.

This is a precarious and unsuitable situation and it cannot continue. I want to be very clear that under a Labour government, it won’t.

Our plans for the childcare system are radical, but they are also credible and designed with providers and staff in mind.

We are committed to investing an extra 4.5 billion pounds into the system, which will not only pay for the expansion in eligibility, it will ensure that providers receive an immediate uplift in the hourly funding rate that will then rise every year of Labour’s term in office.

The minimum funding rate that providers get for 3-4 year olds is currently £4 an hour. In our first year in office the funding rate will be over £5 an hour, over 25 per cent above the current minimum. This will rise each and every year, reaching over 40 per cent above the current minimum by the end of our first term in office. Not only that, providers will get every penny, through a single, supply-side funding system.

For two year olds, the funding rate will rise each and every year, reaching over £9 an hour by the end of our first term in office.

This extra funding will also ensure that providers are able to invest in their staff, who are some of the most undervalued and underpaid in our society.

And we will reform the funding system by ending the fragmentation that currently exists and transition to a single, supply-side funding model, meaning that the full hourly rate will go directly to providers. This will ensure that there is consistency, certainty and sustainability for providers.

Our reforms will mean that those working in early years are able to get on with the work that drew them into the sector in the first place; changing the lives of children.

Over the last nine years the Tories have failed early years providers, staff and children. Labour will not. ”

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