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top-ups?


trekker
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We had a parent enquiring about a space recently - the child was already at another local setting for a couple afternoons a week - child was a funded 3 yr old and the parent wanted to move as, although funded, they were still having to pay on top of that for his place...which she said was "quite expensive"..so not just little extras.

Now I thought settings were not allowed to charge any top ups for children accessing only the funded hours or to expect parents to access any paid extras like meals / additional hours as a condition of having a place... it appears to me that something is not right here - but am I missing something?

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You are right that there should not be any additional or "hidden" extras for provision of a funded place, and its one of my personal annoyances as making extra charges is not equitable for lower income families, such as those getting two year funded places.. they are either forced to look for alternative provision which my not be as good or as easy to get to for example) or run risk of getting into debt.

 

Sadly there are ways settings do get round this. I would recommend the parent contact the LA or make a complaint, often we dont know this is happening until someone tells us.

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Did she say that the top up was a voluntary contribution? This is one way I have heard of groups getting round this issue. Maybe she doesn't mean to say top up maybe the session part is free up to two and a half hours but the child is there longer than that and so pays a different rate for that portion.

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Quite a few day nurseries in our area seem to charge 'top up' and they justify this by saying there sessions are longer than 3 hours.

So if you want your child to go every morning for their 3 hours apparently they are being told that there session is longer than 3 hours eg 8am - 12 so therefore they need to pay extra.

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This makes me so cross! I found out one setting near us was charging children to change their nappies!!! and they were also asking for a registration fee. The child came to us with 2 year old funding.... The funding is not enough, BUT free is free even though financially it is crippling....

The only thing we have done is ask for a 20p donation (works out on average about 60p a week) for snack if they are funded (not for the 2 year old funded children as we get more per child), as soon as they go over their funded hours snack is provided by us. It's voluntary, parents can either pay it or bring their own snack. It goes a little way to make up for our 50p an hour shortfall, which for us equates to a loss of 8000 pounds over the 12 week half term as we have 90 funded children (we charge 4 pound an hour) sigh.....

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Setting is open all year... im pretty sure it wasn't a 'voluntary' donation as parent could have then chosen not to pay rather than leave.

Surely funding would also cover a session that is 3 hours not 2.5...and I interpret the guidance to mean there should be no obligation for a parent to take up the extra 30 mins...

Child didn't end up coming to our setting but it has niggled me ever since.

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trekker it may be that they were doing 15 hours in a full time, year long place...then are then only effectively funded for 10 hours a week therefore asked to 'top up' for the year....of course like everyone else here i also have come across settings that try to get around the rules but if the government don't talk to us about how much it actually costs then this is the problem! some settings however just take the micky!!

Recent report in the press has suggested that childcare costs had gone up by 17% this year......? really who's put their prices up that much ?

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But surely Thumperabbit parents can then choose not to use the extra time and not be charged. Free should mean free and charging for nappy changes is in my opinion disgusting.

Im 100% sure how they do it but they do - unless its the spin that they put on it saying how important it is to attend full session times?! I don't know but they are doing it!!

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Recent report in the press has suggested that childcare costs had gone up by 17% this year......? really who's put their prices up that much ?

I guess that quite a few day nurseries have put the non-funded price up, in order to cover the funded sessions, whilst the 38 weekers have their hands tied really :( I know our local one has.

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Yes, we're a day nursery who lose out on funded children as our hourly rate is more than the amount of funding we get. We've put our fees up by about 3.5 % this month for the first time since 2012.

But free entitlement should be 100% free and is in my setting.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am probably not going to make myself popular by saying that I ask parents to pay a contribution and most of mine do. I have set my fee on paying rent and staff and just a little extra to cover small improvements or replacement of resources, the free entitlement does not cover this. It is possible to have fewer staff but with the layout of the setting with fewer staff it would mean there would be areas that the children could not access. Nor is my rent what I would consider excessive. I am fortunate to live in an area where parents are able to pay and agree to paying the contribution.

I am not comfortable about asking for a contribution would much rather be up front with parents and say this is the fee and use the free entitlement towards it. I would probably set my fee a little higher to cover for those who cannot pay.

Before you set out to lynch me I should state that I do have families who do not pay, parents who have been made redundant or have other reasons for not being able to pay and having that little bit extra does give the opportunity to do this, but does mean that some resources wont be replaced or improvements made.

I do not know how any of you can provide care on the free entitlement. I would love to hear.

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I would not dare lynch you - you are doing what you need to do to survive and keep your group going for families who need it. I have always operated in a way like you - BF (before funding) My fees were not particularly high but aways helped families out who needed it. enough said that all changed with funding.

 

I charge no more than funding for our places. We are open only 15 hours. My rent is reasonable at £10 per hour. My staff who are excellent are able to work for low rates (I.e., a little above minimum wage) because their lifestyle is not dependant upon how much they personally earn and neither is mine.. If I could pay them more I would - but it is their choice to work for what I pay - they could always walk away. It is becoming more difficult because, as was always suspected, hourly rate paid by LEA is not increasing as it needs to, the cushion has gone.

 

If rent remains stable and we are canny with our resources and consumables we will continue to do ok

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We don't charge anything but we have a new committee, all of whom are current parents and they are adament that we should charge for anything we see fit because its only a pound here and there! I might just start asking for contributions, I thought if parents knew how much the funding was and what our outgoings were they would be able to make an informed decision plus donations are eligible for gift aid, if we ever get round to registering ;)

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We don't charge anything but we have a new committee, all of whom are current parents and they are adament that we should charge for anything we see fit because its only a pound here and there! I might just start asking for contributions, I thought if parents knew how much the funding was and what our outgoings were they would be able to make an informed decision plus donations are eligible for gift aid, if we ever get round to registering ;)

I would feel better about asking for contributions if I were committee run. It could be, and I have been asked this by parents, that I would ask for voluntary contributions towards the childrens snack, but money not food.

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Supposed to be completely free with no expense or clause to parents to take more hrs to get there free entitlement.

 

As for him moving his funding, we can do it I. Our LA but 4 weeks notice is required. Our funding is paid at 50% of a predictive budget in the summer term with remaining paid in the spring term though so that's maybe why as it's easier to claim it back from use x

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  • 2 weeks later...

We don't charge top up as supposedly can't even though our funding is £0.59 per hour less than our hourly rate for three year olds! We also charge a 'donation' for snack of 25p (have never had anyone query this). If they are here for their 6 hours so over lunch they have to pay for food which is £1.50. Again, there is no option for a packed lunch but have never had anyone ask and if they did we would have to look at it! It is annoying that we lose out by having funded children but at the same time as said above 'free' is free!!

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We don't charge top up as supposedly can't even though our funding is £0.59 per hour less than our hourly rate for three year olds! We also charge a 'donation' for snack of 25p (have never had anyone query this). If they are here for their 6 hours so over lunch they have to pay for food which is £1.50. Again, there is no option for a packed lunch but have never had anyone ask and if they did we would have to look at it! It is annoying that we lose out by having funded children but at the same time as said above 'free' is free!!

food of course is not covered by the nef funding,,,so in theory everyone is entitled to ask for this but parents would have the opportunity to bring in their own and not pay if they wanted....so that free is still free!

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I worked in many Council owned nurseries, every one had a toy fund set up in each room so I figure if the council can do it I dont see why I cant, I'm about to put our lovely orange bucket near the door and ask for weekly contributions :D

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The key thing is really about removing barriers for families to access high quality cprovision, even more so for families form the most economically disadvantaged backgrounds (eg your 2 year funded children). Little extras such as compulsory lunches, compulsory extra hours, admin fees, compulsory uniform, etc result in one of three things. Either families go elsewhere which may mean poorer provision or it may mean traveling further (more cost); they dont go anywhere because they cant afford to, or they get into debt, which can often to other difficulties they have.

Free really does need to be free for families in order to be inclusive.

Voluntary contributions, fine, as long as parents aren't embarrassed if they aren't able to contribute, and its made very clear that it is voluntary.

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That's all very well mundia but the reality is most of us just cannot carry on subsidizing this funding. It is simply not enough (esp the 3 year funding) to employ good qualified staff and equip & run a setting as it should be.

2 year funding does not by any means go to children with the most deprived/economically challenged backgrounds. we have two children from 'comfortable' middle class backgrounds who are getting it as their children are under SALT. Another was under it last year- parent on income support- yet went to the Dominican Republic for a holiday. I'm not begrudging these children at all- but someone is going to have to start paying for this wonderful 'free' childcare. We deliberately have to set our 'non funded' fees higher as they have to subsidize the funded children. Over the last couple of years we have stopped offering a snack and asked(told!) parents their child requires a small piece fruit for snack each day. Once a term I thank those parents who have sent in cleaning stuff, tissues, hand soap etc. You'd be surprised how much then comes in within the next few days and quite frankly saves us a fortune. We held a mufti day on Valentines day- each child that came in wearing red- bought in a box of tissues. I have no compunction over doing any of this as without it we would have gone under long ago.

Someone said it shouldn't be called a free place but a subsidized place as really that's what it is, and I'm inclined to agree, subsidized by everyone else.

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I do agree with a lot of what you state lynned55, but yet again the very people whom we all work to support, nurture, teach are the ones that suffer.

Free really should mean free within the funding contract, but it really does need to be increased to reflect the true costs we all incur.

And it's getting much tougher to keep our head above water.

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We just decided yesterday to stay as we are. We were asked by the local CC about taking two year olds but I'm loath to give up what little independence we have left.

We cant charge anything to the 3 and 4 year olds but at present we can at least set our own fees for everyone else, if we were to sign up to the two year funding we'd be stuck in their cycle of low payments and demands.

Good in theory, but everyone was caught out with the NEF, we're not about to be caught out again.

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But Rea- not all your two year olds would be on NEF or would they? We currently have (out of 40 children) seven 2 year olds but only 3 of them are on funding. Two of them are funded by our borough at a rate that is £1.10p more than our fees and the third is funded by a neighbouring borough at £1.50 more than our fees. I cant see that changing much in Sept either. We may have around 20 odd two year olds then but there is only going to be 3 or 4 on funding. If our fees start matching the two year funding then I will simply review the process and if needs b pul out of the scheme. As you say we've been burnt once by this and I am not going down that road again.

Edited by lynned55
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