In this guide, we’ll explore what childminders need to know about the scheme, from eligibility to managing the funding effectively.
Eligibility and application
The scheme is available for children aged 2, 3, and 4 years, with specific eligibility criteria for parents. While you don’t have to offer funded places to families, staying competitive amidst the extended rollout might make it a necessity for you.
As a childminder, you must be registered and meet certain standards to participate. Some councils may require a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ grade to be able to offer funding. Current government guidance for councils is that funding should ideally only be offered by ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ providers but if there is a lack of space providers graded required improvement can offer funded places. The application process usually involves registering through a local authority or an online government portal.
The funding covers up to 15 hours per week during term time for all 3- and 4-year-olds, with an extended 30 hours for eligible families. For 2-year-olds, eligibility is based on certain criteria like family income or if the child has special educational needs.
From April 2024, all working parents of 2-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of funding per week.
From September 2024, all working parents of children aged 9 months up to 3 years old can access 15 hours per week.
From September 2025, all working parents of children aged 9 months up to 3 years old can access 30 hours free childcare per week.
Funding rates will vary depending on which council you receive your funding from.
It’s vital to understand how the funding is calculated and paid. Typically, payments are made directly to you from the local authority. This could be on a termly, half-termly or monthly basis. Ensure you have a system for tracking these payments and reconciling them with your accounts. And remember – the funding DOES NOT cover all 52 weeks of the year.
Communicating with parents
Clear communication with parents about their eligibility, the application process, and how this funding affects their fees is essential. Use simple language and be ready to answer common questions.
You might face challenges like delayed payments or administrative complexities. Stay proactive by keeping in touch with your local authority and seeking support from professional childminder networks, like Pacey.
Though not without its complications, the free childcare funding scheme could prove a valuable resource for both families and childminders. By understanding and effectively managing this aspect of your business, you contribute significantly to the care and development of the children in your community.