To update the Schools Forum on the outcome of the consultation with early years providers on proposed changes to the payment arrangements of the free childcare places entitlement and initial 2019-20 budget matters.
The Forum considered a report on the outcome of the consultation with early years (EY) providers on proposed changes to the payment arrangements of the free entitlement and initial 2019-20 budget matters.
Following the issue of new statutory guidance on the payment of the EY free entitlements to providers, a duty was placed on the Council to either implement a monthly payment model or be able to show that it had consulted with providers and be able to evidence that it has reviewed the payment arrangements to ensure they continue to meet the providers’ needs. Because of the challenges presented by the introduction of a monthly payment model, the Council had until this time opted to continue with an alternative payment method.
Further work was then carried out to identify monthly payment models that could be implemented within the current available resources and capacity. With the benefit of views from the PVI representatives comprising the EY Steering Group, a consultation was prepared for all providers registered to receive the free entitlement, which was undertaken in October 2018. The consultation was in two parts:
There were 53 responses to the consultation representing a 35% return which was good. 72% of respondents did not support the proposal to implement a monthly payment model. An additional amendment payment in the summer term was supported by a majority but there was no clear preference for a change in the percentage of the total forecast funding paid in the forecast payment. Some providers had indicated that an increase in the deadline for the forecast task from one week to two would be of benefit. The Forum considered recommendations taking account of these responses.
The government had confirmed in November that local authorities would continue to be funded in 2019-20 at the same hourly rates as received during the current year and therefore funding rates paid to providers are also likely to remain unchanged. A review of centrally managed budgets had indicated that a minor cash increase was expected to be sought to cover the cost of increased software costs.
1. That taking account of comments from providers to the consultation on the free childcare places payment model and efficiency proposals from the council:
a) The current termly payment model for the early years free entitlements be retained.
b) An additional optional amendment task be introduced for the summer term for providers operating during the summer holidays.
c) The 60% advance payment rate paid to providers be retained, based on each term’s forecast participation rate.
d) The available time for providers to complete the forecast task be increased from 1 to 2 weeks.
2. To NOTE that:
1) Based on current information, the 2019-20 budget proposals for Early Years services are expected to confirm that:
a) In light of the cash flat funding settlement from the government, that no changes are expected to be made in 2019-20 to provider funding rates.
b) Taking account of the cost of managing the provider portal and other associated systems, additional funds of around £0.011m are expected to be sought by the council to finance the cost of associated ICT software and maintenance costs.
2) Final 2019-20 budget proposals for Early Years providers and support services will be presented to the Forum for comment in March.
ACTION: Cherry Hall