CODE CHAOS FOR PARENTS AS JUST 1 IN 10 SECURE A CODE TO ACCESS NEW GOVERNMENT CHILDCARE SCHEME
- Only 55% of parents have found a childcare setting that will accept the new ‘free’ hours for 2-year-olds
- 25% say their provider has given them a code deadline. Half say the deadline is before they will receive their code
- 17% of parents do not understand how the system works
DATE: 15th January 2024: Charity, Pregnant Then Screwed, has surveyed 6,058 parents who are eligible for the new funding for 2-year-olds. It finds that parents are in complete chaos trying to access the new 15 hours ‘free’ childcare scheme from the Government.
Since January 1st, parents have been able to apply for a code to access the new scheme for 2-year-olds, starting on April 1st. The scheme is the first stage of the roll-out from the government, which pledged a significant investment in childcare in the Spring budget in 2023. However, the execution of the scheme has left parents confused and frustrated with many still unsure if they can access the scheme.
A mere 11% of these parents have been able to get a code. The system itself is causing parents a huge headache – with 17% sharing they simply don’t understand how it works. Some parents complain that they have repeatedly tried to access their code, but the website sends them in an endless loop and then back to the log-in page; others are being sent on a wild goose chase with incorrect advice from the childcare helpline.
Danielle Long, a mum from Norwich, explains, “The first time I called, I was on hold for 4 hours, only to be hung up on. I called the following day and waited another 3 hours. I can’t express my frustration at the usability of this system – people who work, who have young kids and need childcare don’t have that sort of time.’’
It’s not just about the technical failures, however, as just 55% of parents have found a provider who is accepting codes for the new scheme. With over a third of parents (34%) saying their preferred provider is currently unable to confirm whether they will accept the codes – this is likely due to providers not having the necessary information from their local authority. Some childcare settings are also removing the government scheme for 3 and 4-year-olds as well as not enrolling in the new 2-year funding scheme due to continued underfunding from the government.
Georgina, a mother of 3 from Northamptonshire comments, “On the 2nd Jan, 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. This means by May, my monthly outgoing on childcare alone will be close to £2000 pcm! For context, our mortgage is £1300 pcm (up from £995 pcm last year). I just do not know how or if we can afford this and it adds insult to injury that there is funding we’re entitled to yet can’t utilise due to not enough provision in the area we live.”
Joeli Brearley, CEO and Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, comments, ‘’We have been inundated with messages from frantic parents who don’t understand the system, or expect to receive their code too late. Meanwhile, many providers haven’t been given the information they need from their local authority to decipher what their income will be from April onwards. Parents can’t access their codes, providers can’t do their financial forecasting – it’s chaos”
Parents are told they cannot apply for a code until their “reconfirmation window” in their government childcare account opens, but many say this won’t happen until late March, just days before the scheme is due to start. A small number say their reconfirmation window opens in April which is after the scheme starts.
Indeed, 69% of parents say their reconfirmation window isn’t open yet. Concerningly, a quarter (25%) of parents say their provider has given them a deadline to provide their code in order to access the scheme; and of those, a half (49%) say the deadline is before their reconfirmation window opens. This means thousands of families are set to be out of pocket when April 1st hits through no fault of their own. The Department for Education has made it clear that there should not be any deadlines before the 31st March, adding additional administrative pressure on providers to process all codes before term starts on April 1st.
Joeli Brearley, CEO and Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, comments, “With just 1 in 10 parents successfully accessing their code, the majority are still unsure as to whether they will be able to secure the funded hours they so desperately need. Why does it often feel as though these schemes are drafted on the back of a fag packet without proper consideration for the end user?
Parents struggling to understand the system or trying to secure their code are told to call the childcare services helpline, but parents we have spoken to complain of being on call waiting for very long periods, with many saying the line then cuts out. Our benefit helpline isn’t able to keep up with demand, and we’re being flooded with messages. We’ve become a childcare helpline for the government overnight.”
Notes to editor:
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About the research:
Pregnant Then Screwed surveyed 6058 parents who are eligible for the new 2-year-old childcare funding offer on the 11th and 12th of January. The survey was self-selecting and ran via Typeform. Parents were surveyed across England
The full data is as follows:
- Have you been able to successfully apply for a code for this scheme?
- 67.2% No, my reconfirmation window isn’t open yet
- 17.1% No, I don’t understand how it works
- 11.2% Yes
- 0.3% No, I don’t need to or want to apply for these hours
- 4.1% other (with free text box)
- When does your reconfirmation window open? (Free text box)
- Have you been able to find a childcare provider who is accepting codes for the new 15 hours scheme?
- 55.5% YES
- 34.3% My preferred provider is currently unable to tell us if they will or won’t be accepting codes for this scheme
- 4.8% No, I haven’t tried to find a provider yet
- 2.3% No, I cannot find a provider who will accept codes for this scheme
- 0.6% No, I do not need to use it yet
- 2.6% other
- Has your provider given you a deadline to submit your code in order to get free hours in April?
- 69.5% NO
- 25.6% YES
- 4.9% Other
- Please can you share this deadline with us? (Free text box)
- Is the deadline from your provider before your reconfirmation window opens?
- 49.3% YES
- 44.1% No, my reconfirmation window is before this date
- 6.6% No, I do not have a reconfirmation window
If your provider is part of a chain of nurseries, please share the name of the chain
(Free text box)
- In which part of the uk do you live?
- 24.5% South east England
- 13.5% North west England
- 13.3% South West England
- 12.7% London
- 9.4% Yorkshire and the Humber
- 7.8% East Midlands
- 7.4% East of England
- 7.3% West Midlands
- 4% North East England