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Two thirds of local authorities fall behind on 30-hours delivery

By Rachel Lawler
More than two thirds of local authorities in England are validating fewer 30-hours codes than the national average, according to statistics released by the Department for Education (DfE).
In the spring term running from 1 January to 31 March, an estimated 294,000 children were using a 30-hours place after a total of 329,195 codes were issued and a total of 307,165 were validated by a provider. This means that 93% of parents issued with a 30-hours code had it validated and around 89% were able to secure and start using a place at a setting.
Local differences
But while this is the national average, more than two thirds of local authorities have a lower percentage of eligible children accessing a 30-hours place. In Manchester, just 71% of children issued with a code have secured and were able to access a place for the spring term. In Leicester, an estimated 77% of children were able to access a 30-hours place.
Several London local authorities were not meeting the national average rate. In Lewisham an estimate of just 67% of children with an eligibility code were accessing a 30-hours place and in Barnet, the estimated rate was as low as 55%.
Overall picture
A total of 63 local authorities who provided data on the 30-hours codes validated fewer eligibility codes than the national average and 68 had fewer children accessing a 30-hours place.
The DfE explained that there may be some parents who are issued with an eligibility code but choose not to use it with a provider and some who get a code validated by a provider but do not end up taking the 30-hours place.
Alliance comment
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “Unfortunately, nearly two terms into the rollout out of 30 hours, each release of government statistics only serves to make the issues with the policy more apparent. Both terms now have begun with figures showing parents struggling to have their codes validated in time and then, later in the term, another release showing improvement nationally is being hamstrung by huge variations of take up locally.
“Despite this well-worn narrative, ministers continue to be in complete denial of the problems inherent in the policy, often blaming local authorities and providers in areas where parents have been unable to take up places. They know the simple truth is that current funding levels are preventing parents accessing truly ‘free’ childcare and putting providers off offering 30 hours. Only the government are in a position to fix this, and if ministers are serious about delivering affordable childcare for parents they must act now to make the policy sustainable by ensuring it is properly funded.”
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