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Alliance files new ICO complaint after DfE refuses to release information

By Rachel Lawlercalculations FOI request

The Alliance has filed a new complaint with to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after the Department for Education (DfE) refused a request for proof that the latest increase in early years funding is enough to cover rising wage costs.

The Alliance initially filed an FOI request to the DfE, asking for the calculations behind the government’s claim that the £44 million increase in early years funding, which came into effect in April 2021, would cover the costs of increases to the National Living and Minimum Wages.

Children and families minister Vicky Ford has repeatedly made this claim in Parliament, including during a public meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children and Early Education.

Rejected request
The Department rejected the Alliance's request on the basis that it already plans to release “a document which considers the rate at which early years providers are funded for delivering entitlements and looks at the average cost of delivering childcare entitlements, based on various relevant inputs – including the minimum wage”.

However, no deadline or timescale was given for the publication of this document.

FOI investigation
Earlier this year, the Alliance published government briefing documents, obtained after a two-year FOI battle, which revealed that early years funding rates for 2020/21 were less than two-thirds of what government officials estimated to be the true cost of ‘fully funding’ the sector.

Call for proof
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “After spending two years trying to hide information which proved that it was knowingly underfunding the sector, the government's latest obstructive actions are disappointing, but sadly not surprising.

“The Department for Education has been claiming for months now, including in Parliament, that the 1% increase in early years funding rates that came into effect in April was more than enough to pay for the more than 2% increase in national living and minimum wages. So where’s the proof? It is simply not good enough to say ‘We’ll prove it at some point’ when these rates have been in effect for more than four months now.

“For years, early years providers have been struggling to survive on funding rates the government knew were inadequate. They have been left to face the huge challenges of the pandemic with wholly inadequate support. As a sector, we have suffered a net loss of more than 2,000 providers over the past year. Surely the Department for Education can understand why we might find it difficult to take these latest funding claims on trust alone.

“The government needs to stop dragging it feet, and commit to releasing this important information without further delay.”

Find out more
Read the findings of the Alliance's last FOI investigation in full