Just spent a pleasant quarter hour putting Bub’s new nursery dates into my diary. This is because from early April he’s entitled to some free nursery care. And because, boy, it’s complex.
We can only afford a couple of ‘full price’ half day nursery sessions for him a week. But with the free provision we can double this number for the same cost. But only in term time. Hence the complexity. Luckily Bub’s nursery is flexible and is letting us have different arrangements in and outside of term time. Many wouldn’t allow this.
I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Getting this free provision is fab. But the system really couldn’t be more badly designed if they tried.
You get 15 hours free, but only in solid three hour blocks. And Bub’s sessions are five hours long. So to use the whole allowance he’d have to do five half day sessions (a total of twenty five hours.) And it’s term time only so there are 14 weeks of the year you don’t get it. If our nursery were less flexible we’d be looking at a huge weekly fee every time the holidays came around. And of course we’re fortunate Bub has a stay at home parent and can therefore vary his childcare hours on a weekly basis. Many won’t have this luxury.
It’s great that there is financial support for childcare. There should be more. But it feels like this has been designed to be as unhelpful and hard to take up as possible. I imagine many parents, who might perhaps use the hours to take up work, aren’t able to because of the limitations on how it’s structured.
Mind you on this issue I’m glad I don’t live in Wales. My mummy friends there say it’s so complex and restrictive they can’t access it at all.