Government underestimates eligibility for 30 hour offer

To date there has been limited information on what a 30 hour offer might look like for settings in terms of levels of eligibility, take up and parents’ preferred delivery models. The Pre-School Learning Alliance commissioned Ceeda to conduct a national study to help providers plan for September 2017. A total of 1,708 households took part, giving feedback for children who will be in the eligible age range for 30 hours in the 2017/18 school year.

Key facts

The survey found that more than four fifths of working households (88%) and an estimated 478,000 children meet the eligibility criteria now: 23% higher than Government estimates of 390,000 children.

Two fifths (43%) of families in working households earning below the income threshold plan to change their work activity to meet the criteria meaning a potential 92% of working households and 500,000 children could be eligible in 2017/18; 28% higher than Government estimates.

Parents also say the offer is likely to encourage them to return to work; this will not translate into immediate demand. Whilst this is positive news in terms of policy impact it signals future pressures on market capacity and sustainability.

The vast majority of parents meeting the criteria intend to take up the offer (98%) and 70% would use the full 1,140 hours. Many would prefer this to be stretched (59%); 50 to 52 weeks are the most popular choices. Overall, eligible parents expect to use an average of 1,057 funded hours per annum with the range being 304 to 1,140 hours.

The majority of children eligible for the offer in 2017/18 are already using care; 72% of two year olds in eligible working households access an average of 19.16 hours of care and 88% of three year olds are using an average 22.42 hours of care. A 30 hour offer, taken up in full by the majority of parents, will involve a significant increase in demand.

The market is also set to see significant churn; one in four parents using care now would leave their current provider in favour of one who could offer all 30 hours and 27% would use two providers if necessary. One in three new entrants would be prepared to use more than one setting - partnerships between providers will be critical to the quality of care received.

A research briefing is available here.