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RED TAPE WRECKS CHILDCARE STRATEGY

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The government's£8bn flagship policy to provide affordable childcare for Britain's pre-school children is not work...
The government's£8bn flagship policy to provide affordable childcare for Britain's pre-school children is not working because it is mired in layer upon layer of mind-boggling bureacracy, a new report will claim this week, reported The Independent on Sunday (p10). Researchers have uncovered a bewildering 45 different ways of receiving state support for childcare.

The grant schemes fall into two different categories. One is for nurseries to obtain funds for starting up and operating; the other is for parents to get the cost of nursery education subsidised

or completely paid for. The bureaucracy for both categories is so complex that many nurseries and parents are failing to take advantage of any of them.

The Daycare Trust said: 'These sources are so complex and diverse that key players are often unaware of all potential sources or unable to make the most of them'. It said the 45 funding streams 'all with separate bidding processes, criteria, target groups, time scales and payment schemes' lead to 'a level of complexity difficult... to navigate'.

The charity found the biggest gaps in affordable childcare provision were in the areas where they were needed most - in inner city areas and in rural parishes. Out of£220m available under

the New Opportunities Fund to be spent on providing childcare places, just 8% - or£18m - had been distributed. Between 1998 and 1999, the number of childminders dropped by 12,500 while the total number of playgroups fell by 700.

A further survey conducted for the charity revealed that just 256 community nurseries survive across England. Half said their funding was 'insecure', and of those two-thirds said they were under 'threat of closure'.

Lil Bowers, who manages the Easton Community Nursery in Bristol, spent so much time 'cutting through the red tape' of the various funding schemes that she was forced to take on a second full-time adminstrator to run the nursery. But Mrs Bowers risks becoming a victim of her own

success. Her ability to secure extra funding from central government sources has led to Bristol City Council reviewing its£64,000-a-year grant to the nursery, as parents are now receiving central government subsidy of an average£30 a week through the Working Family Tax Credit scheme.

Margaret Hodge, minister for employment and equal opportunities, defended the childcare strategy which, says the government, has already created 230,000 free pre-school places.

The government's£8bn flagship policy to provide affordable childcare for Britain's pre-school children is not working because it ismired in layer upon layer of mind-boggling bureacracy, a new report will claim this week, reported The Independent on Sunday (p10). Researchers have

uncovered a bewildering 45 different ways of receiving state support for childcare.

The grant schemes fall into two different categories. One is for nurseries to obtain funds for starting up and operating; the other is for parents to get the cost of nursery education subsidised

or completely paid for. The bureaucracy for both categories is so complex that many nurseries and parents are failing to take advantage of any of them.

The Daycare Trust said: 'These sources are so complex and diverse that key players are often unaware of all potential sources or unable to make the most of them'. It said the 45 funding streams 'all with separate bidding processes, criteria, target groups, time scales and payment schemes' lead to 'a level of complexity difficult... to navigate'.

The charity found the biggest gaps in affordable childcare provision were in the areas where they were needed most - in inner city areas and in rural parishes. Out of£220m available under the New Opportunities Fund to be spent on providing childcare places, just 8% - or£18m - had been distributed. Between 1998 and 1999, the number of childminders dropped by 12,500 while the total number of playgroups fell by 700.

A further survey conducted for the charity revealed that just 256 community nurseries survive across England. Half said their funding was 'insecure', and of those two-thirds said they were under 'threat of closure'.

Lil Bowers, who manages the Easton Community Nursery in Bristol, spent so much time 'cutting through the red tape' of the various funding schemes that she was forced to take on a second full-time adminstrator to run the nursery. But Mrs Bowers risks becoming a victim of her own

success. Her ability to secure extra funding from central government sources has led to Bristol City Council reviewing its£64,000-a-year grant to the nursery, as parents are now receiving central government subsidy of an average£30 a week through the Working Family Tax Credit

scheme.

Margaret Hodge, minister for employment and equal opportunities, defended the childcare strategy which, says the government, has already created 230,000 free pre-school places.

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