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Child Care

Volume 448: debated on Thursday 6 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what his policy is on the charging of top-up fees by providers of child care in receipt of monies from his Department. (82968)

Every three and four-year-old is entitled to 12 ½ hours of free high-quality early education and care for 38 weeks of the year. The fees that providers charge parents for additional hours and services beyond the free entitlement are a private matter between providers and parents.

The entitlement must be free at the point of delivery. The funding the Government provide is not a subsidy, and should not be treated as such by providers. Providers must make no charge to parents for the funded hours accessed and must reduce their fees by the amount they would usually charge were the child not accessing a free place. Providers may not require parents to take up additional hours or services as a condition of access to a free place. To allow this practice could result in a two-tier system where real choice exists only for the well-off, and the most disadvantaged—precisely those who stand most to benefit from free provision—are excluded.