To consider and comment on a report on Child Care Strategy
The Committee received the Child Care Sufficiency 2017 report which was set out in agenda pages 49-90.
The Chairman stated that the Committee had requested this report in order to assess the sufficiency of childcare in the Borough in order to deliver the additional 15 hours of childcare that parents will be entitled to from September 2017. Members had been concerned that providers may not be able to afford to deliver the extra hours.
The Chairman expressed her appreciation of the thoroughness of the report and wished to thank all the Officers involved in its production.
Councillor Rowland raised concerns that the situation was not as good as set out in the report. She stated that the school where she was a governor at had not received further information about this strategy.
Judith Ramsden explained that this was a draft strategy which was still to be submitted to the Executive, and it was important to understand the wider context of the situation. It was very complex for the Local Authority to set a strategy because childcare services were based on market forces, and the Local Authority was not the provider. The commissioner had tried to find out: how many parents would be taking the offer of extra hours; what their work patterns were and how it would change as a result of the additional hours; how many parents from Wokingham worked outside of the Borough and were using out of the Borough childcare.
Judith stated that none of the providers had indicated that they would not be able to respond to the increased hours. The commissioner would continue to work with childcare leaders to understand the context.
Judith informed that the Early Years team was undertaking a lot of work to ensure that money would follow disadvantaged children to their respective settings, making sure that they receive what they are entitled to.
In response to a question Judith explained that some primary schools were not able to expand due to buildings constraints.
Judith stated that another issue providers were currently discussing, was about potentially having to charge more to parents that can afford to pay more to subsidise the children that do not attract enough funding for their places.
Judith confirmed that a survey had taken place earlier in the year, and this strategy was being proposed as a result of that survey. However, the commissioner would continue to evaluate the market, the level of need and how the providers are responding.
In response to a question Judith stated that the Local Authority had a duty to secure sufficient childcare under the current legislation, but it was not clear what were the consequences of not meeting the demand for places.
Judith informed that in other parts of the country parents had set up charitable provisions to serve their local communities. She emphasized that it was a market led provision.
Councillor Miall asked when and how the money would be paid to providers. Judith agreed to report back with this information.
The Chairman asked for an update in relation to the reported fallen number of Childminders in the Borough to be included with the next report to the Committee.
Councillor Rowland drew attention to the table on page 65 of the agenda and the fact that Wokingham was more than half way down the list which showed the percentage of pupils in good or outstanding primary schools across the South East region.
Members noted from the survey that most parents expressed a wish for more childcare options outside of 9am to 5pm and more childcare in the holidays. Judith stated that this information would be shared with providers and hopefully this would help to shape the strategy.
1) the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee note the report and asked to be kept informed on the development of the strategy, with update reports to the November 2017 and January 2018 meetings;
2) the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee recognises that Wokingham Borough Council is accountable for market forces beyond its control;
3) all the Officers involved in the production of the report be thanked for their work.