“Chaos” as only one in ten parents able to access funding code

Only 11% of parents eligible for the extended funding for two-year-olds have received the code they need to access the scheme, according to charity Pregnant Then Screwed.

The charity, which surveyed more than 6,000 eligible parents, described the system as “complete chaos”.

Parents have been able to apply for a code since the beginning of January to access the 15 funded hours for two-year-olds. The scheme, which starts on 1 April, is the first stage of the funded hours roll-out, with 15 hours available to children from the age of nine months from September 2024, and 30 free hours from nine months until the start of school from September 2025.

However, the Pregnant Then Screwed survey found:

  • Only 11% of eligible parents have been able to get a code, with parents complaining about incorrect advice from the childcare helpline and poor navigation on the code web site.
  • 17% of parents said they don’t understand how the scheme works
  • Only 55% of parents have found a provider that is accepting codes for the new scheme
  • 34% of parents say their preferred provider is unable to confirm whether they will accept the scheme

Joeli Brearley, chief executive and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said: ‘’We have been inundated with messages from frantic parents who don’t understand the system, or expect to receive their code too late. Meanwhile, many providers haven’t been given the information they need from their local authority to decipher what their income will be from April onwards. Parents can’t access their codes, providers can’t do their financial forecasting – it’s chaos.”

She added: “Our benefit helpline isn’t able to keep up with demand, and we’re being flooded with messages. We’ve become a childcare helpline for the government overnight.”

Danielle Long, a mum from Norwich, said: “The first time I called [the childcare helpline] I was on hold for four hours, only to be hung up on. I called the following day and waited another three hours. I can’t express my frustration at the usability of this system – people who work, who have young kids and need childcare don’t have that sort of time.’’

The research found many parents are being told they can’t apply for a code until late March, days before the scheme is due to start, with others told they won’t be able to apply until after the scheme starts in April. A quarter of parents reported their provider had given them a deadline to provide their code in order to access the funded places, and of those a half (49%) said they were not set to receive their code before that deadline.

The survey also found some childcare settings have stopped providing funded places for three- and four-year-olds as well as not enrolling in the two-year-old funding scheme.

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