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I was just wondering now I have the 15 hours all sorted out for September if anyone is able to charge 'top up fees' to parents.

 

The Conservatives were going to allow this at one time so that private settings could stay sustainable.

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Yes.

 

We in Windsor and Maidenhead got an email on Friday at 3pm to say that since lots of providers in our Authority are not ready to provide the 15 hours 'free' we are allowed to charge top ups. Now everyone has to be ready to deliver the free entitlement from April 2011 when every Authority's EYSFF has to be in place.

 

Maz

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Yes.

 

We in Windsor and Maidenhead got an email on Friday at 3pm to say that since lots of providers in our Authority are not ready to provide the 15 hours 'free' we are allowed to charge top ups. Now everyone has to be ready to deliver the free entitlement from April 2011 when every Authority's EYSFF has to be in place.

 

Maz

 

But how will that work for the parents?....... Isn't it rather short notice? Ours all know that from Sept they're entitled to 15 hours - I think they'd riot if we suddenly told them they'd have to cut down sessions or pay-up!!!

 

I'm not saying we don't need to charge top-ups, we lose around £25 a day at the moment - which soon adds up.

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But how will that work for the parents?....... Isn't it rather short notice? Ours all know that from Sept they're entitled to 15 hours - I think they'd riot if we suddenly told them they'd have to cut down sessions or pay-up!!!

Don't get me started louby loo. I have been so angry that only now do I feel safe to post about it. I just don't understand how the position can have moved from the last workshop we did (in May I think) when we were being told that charging parents anything at all to access their 15 hours was strictly against the rules and non-negotiable.

 

It seems to me that providers have just refused to offer the 15 hours free and have threatened to withdraw from offering funded hours to the extent that now the Local Authority are concerned that they might not be able to guarantee that parents are able to access a free place for their children.

 

I have searched my soul, thought and reconsidered and consulted with my parents and have explained that although I will be losing money for every funded child I accept, I will move heaven and earth to ensure they can access their 'free' entitlement from September. Now two weeks from the end of my term I feel that had I just ignored the impending doom of the 15 hour entitlement I would at least have been able to recoup the losses by charging a top up as I do now. As it stands two weeks is just not enough notice to tell parents that they must now pay - even if I felt comfortable morally and ethically. Which I don't.

 

I am wondering how many calls the Local Authority will receive next week as the news sinks in that some settngs are charging for the same entitlement that other parents up and down the country will receive free.

 

You got me started! :o

 

Maz

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Hi there

 

Are you saying that your LA are letting you charge a top up on the 15 hours? Say you chage £4.00 and hour 15 hours would be £60.00 and your LA pays you £3.80 an hour so you get £57.00 are you now able to charge £3.00 per week for the difference.

 

If I am reading this right and you are allowed to make up the shortfall that is the bit that I thought was "illegal"

 

I must be barking up the wrong tree, am I?

 

BMG

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Are you saying that your LA are letting you charge a top up on the 15 hours? Say you chage £4.00 and hour 15 hours would be £60.00 and your LA pays you £3.80 an hour so you get £57.00 are you now able to charge £3.00 per week for the difference

Yes

 

If I am reading this right and you are allowed to make up the shortfall that is the bit that I thought was "illegal"

Me too, until 3pm on Friday.

 

I must be barking up the wrong tree, am I?

Sadly not. Now the deadline for the 15 hour entitlement being completely free in our Authority is April 2011.

 

Maz

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happy Maz - i must go back and read that again - that is not how i read it at all. I believed it was only the people who were not sorted to provide 15 hours that it referred to - mind you it was sent out in the last few minutes of friday.....i wonder why???!!!!

lets face it we are all going to have to be creative with the way we 'charge'next year....we've managed to wangle in a lunch club...just to try and make a bit more dosh! :o

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Hi finleysmaid are you going to charge for your lunch club. Are parents going to say they want to use some of their 15 hours to access lunch club, what a mess and we have to sort it all.

Sorry had a little moment then and it didn't make any sense.

Edited by bridger
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happy Maz - i must go back and read that again - that is not how i read it at all. I believed it was only the people who were not sorted to provide 15 hours that it referred to - mind you it was sent out in the last few minutes of friday.....i wonder why???!!!!

That would probably be the way I explained it finlaysmaid! In one way they are being fair I guess - every setting in the Borough is able to charge a top up fee as I see it, and not just those groups who aren't ready to go. One of the reasons cited for the decision was that there is so little time left now before the end of term so that there was no time for notice to be given to parents. It would be highly unfair if only a select number of settings were allowed to charge a top up - in theory we all have the same opportunity to recoup some of our losses but it still sits uneasy with me to do so at this late stage when parents have been looking forward to getting free childcare for so long.

 

As for why it was sent by email at 3pm on Friday - well the cynic in me thinks it was to limit the number of irate providers who were able to contact them. My emails get delivered to my BlackBerry so I got on the case good and early! We received our headcount paperwork yesterday and there was a hard copy of the text of the email, but in letter form. How annoyed would I have been just to have received the letter on Saturday with no-one to complain to? So actually I guess they did me a favour by emailing it out in advance!

 

Maz

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I attended a singly funding form on Tuesday run by Essex County Council and we were catagorically told we Could Not charge top up fees, registration/admin fees etc etc!! Poor man had to stand in front of about 40 women!! He was certainly in a hot sweat at the end of the two hours!!

Kris

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I attended a singly funding form on Tuesday run by Essex County Council and we were catagorically told we Could Not charge top up fees, registration/admin fees etc etc!!

Exactly what we were told, kristina. I have asked for clarification about how they can legally allow top-ups given all the messages they had previously categorically told us this would be illegal in future. I'll let you know what they say.

 

Maz

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bridger - we are offering funded sessions 8.30-11.30 but for some (who are unable to attend this early) they will start at 9 and be able to stay until 12.00 the last half hour being lunch club...if we have less than 8 children doing this we will offer the other spaces on a first come first served basis at £5 for the half hour.....yes i know it sounds a lot but parents have already told us that they would pay this as they don't pay for anything else.Afternoon session 12.00 till three ( we will not offer full day care)...they too can access lunch club if spaces available. VERY complicated but i think it will work for us.I will not be changing these arrangements until we have tried them out and have told parents we will review at christmas.

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VERY complicated but i think it will work for us.I will not be changing these arrangements until we have tried them out and have told parents we will review at christmas.

It is a bit complicated, but once parents get their heads round it at least they'll know what they need to pay, and why! Good idea to keep at it for a good long period and then review - the last thing you need is to keep chopping and changing.

 

Good luck - let us know how it goes!

 

Maz

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That would probably be the way I explained it finlaysmaid! In one way they are being fair I guess - every setting in the Borough is able to charge a top up fee as I see it, and not just those groups who aren't ready to go. One of the reasons cited for the decision was that there is so little time left now before the end of term so that there was no time for notice to be given to parents. It would be highly unfair if only a select number of settings were allowed to charge a top up - in theory we all have the same opportunity to recoup some of our losses but it still sits uneasy with me to do so at this late stage when parents have been looking forward to getting free childcare for so long.

 

 

Maz

 

It's a shame this information has come so late in the term. I for one would not want to tell my parent's I was now going to charge them with all the sessions sorted out for September. However if this allowed I might consider trying to charge a top up in January to recoup some of the losses of the low funding rate. I am in a neighbouring county so interested in where this is going. My setting stands to lose quite a bit by not charging the true value of 3 hours education and care.

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I am in a neighbouring county so interested in where this is going. My setting stands to lose quite a bit by not charging the true value of 3 hours education and care.

I'm right on the edge of our Borough dorisdarling, and some of our parents have come from out of borough to my setting. This could prove a costly decision because had they chosen a group across the border then they would have nothing to pay. Equally, if you are on the edge of the authority bordering mine how can it be fair that I can charge a top up and you can't?

 

A quick calculation shows that I can recoup approximately £550 of lost fees by charging a top up per term - money I could certainly use. However I feel very uneasy going back on my agreement with my parents. I've decided to write to them outlining the issues involved tomorrow including a short questionnaire to try and gauge their reaction.

 

Wish me luck!

 

Maz

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Wishing you luck Maz. It really has not been thought out well for providers and everyone has had to interpret the new proposals at the last minute.

 

Lets hope the powers that be get the SFF right for next April.

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I've just been talking this through at home (have written my letter to parents along with a quick questionnaire to gather evidence). Should I decide to go ahead and charge a top up, and a parent objects would they be entitled to bring a case against me for charging them to access their entitlement? :o

 

Maz

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Hi Maz i thought it clearly stated in our contract with the local authority that a place must be free at the point of delivery and that you must not make parents/carers feel that they have to take up additional services at a cost to secure and access a free place.

Getting more muddled as time goes on, i would check first before you send out anything.

Good luck

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Ok rant coming on here, but when oh when oh when will the local authorities accept that we are generally small businesses, who need to plan and budget well in advance for change? Most on here have been giving the 15 hr extension thought for a year now and have planned and budgeted for it. Yet, despite this I am still totally in the dark about the SFF as my local authority have NOT declared any figures. How can we run businesses when our core income is set by and decided by the LEA who do not make any decisions until the 11th hour??

 

How did the old NEG turn into this mess, with local rates, local terms, differing SFF etc? This is all due to lack of thought by central government who never considered the impact on local providers.

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Hi Maz i thought it clearly stated in our contract with the local authority that a place must be free at the point of delivery and that you must not make parents/carers feel that they have to take up additional services at a cost to secure and access a free place.

Spoke to a real person in our Authority today. The code of practice says the 15 hours must be free at the point of delivery, and that where Local Authorities are aware that settings are making a charge for the free entitlement, they should take action. So Windsor and Maidenhead have accepted that many settings are not able to provide the 15 hours free, and the action they have taken is to give them a deadline of 1st April 2011 to provide the entitlement free, and will work with settings to enable them to plan towards achieving the free entitlement on that date.

 

Its an interesting interpretation of the Code of Practice, but one I guess that any LA could use to give settings a bit more time to comply. I did ask how confident they were that all the settings who were unready to go in September would be ready by April. He couldn't guarantee anything of course - but I do worry that they'll take the extra funding and make top up charges for two terms and then pull out of nursery education funding any way.

 

I have to say that the reaction of a couple of parents today was "well thank goodness for that" when I told them that I could charge top up fees, but I'm going to wait for the results of my survey before deciding what to do. I may have to swallow my ethical issues and charge a modest daily top up - the financial position of my group doesn't really allow me to take the moral high ground, and a thousand pounds is a lot of money to make up when I don't have to. It will stick in my throat though, and I will feel hypocritical.

 

Maz

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Hi Maz it seems the plot thickens, whilst we all have to sit and work out how to administer this in our settings,of which we are all unique and give parents choice, this seems to be diminishing as we speak. We have a finance meeting tomorrow to discuss these very issues, "such joy".

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Hi Maz,

 

 

It seems you will be able to charge a top up then with your LEA's backing for at least another 2 terms.

It just shows what can be achieved if providers stick together and refuse to do something.

 

I assume that as I have not heard of any changes, our Borough must have enough providers agreeing to deliver the 15 hours free.

 

It may be a different case if the SFF erodes the funding further in April. I agree with the thoughts on late notice, it is impossible to budget properly for the year ahead. We are also being hit next year by a single point of entry for 4 year olds. This change in admissions will further reduce the budget, unless we can find enough two year olds to replace funded fours and that's a whole new ball game!

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