Information About Funded Places....
This is an aspect of our childminding businesses that seems to send some childminders into a panic and I've seen situations where families have moved because funding isn't offered and the child has had to start over in a new setting.
I can't talk you through the process exactly as each council seems to have their own way of doing it, but I can provide you with some advice based on my experiences and knowledge, which I hope puts you at ease and helps you feel more comfortable with what's involved.
2 Year Old Funding
2 Year old funding is 15 hours and term time only.
It usually starts the term after the child turns two, but in some cases, I have seen that families have been able to start it sooner. If you aren't sure, check with your LA.
Families must meet certain criteria for their children to be eligible for this, for example in receipt of certain benefits, from a low income household or they maybe adopted. There's a full list of the criteria on the government's website that you can send to families to check. The family needs to apply for this funding themselves and then they will receive confirmation of this, that they can pass onto you.
3 and 4 Year Old Funding
A child is automatically entitled to 15 hours of universal funding (term time only), which starts the term after they turn three. For example, if a child is 3 in December, they can start their funded hours in January. For this, you just need to add the child's details to the portal.
A child's family may also be eligible for a further 15 hours, which is generally know as extended funding or it is grouped together with the 15 universal hours and is referred to as the 30 hours funding. This additional funding is based upon whether a parent is in work and there is certain criteria to meet, that is listed on the government's website.
A child's family must apply for the extended funding and if they are successful, they will receive a funding code that they need to give to you. This code is added into your council's funding portal. The family will need to update the code every three months and they will receive email reminders about this.
You can find out more about both of these types of funding here, which will take you to the government's website.
Will you lose money by offering funding?
Childminding fees and funding rates vary massively across the UK, but generally, the funding rate for 3 and 4 year olds seems to be much lower than most childminder's hourly rate. I know that this is another reason why childminders are reluctant to offer funded places.
You can not ask for a blatant top up, but there are other things you can do to make up the shortfall. You can charge for consumables (food, trips, nappies etc) as an extra fee or you can ask for a voluntary contribution from your families. In my setting, my families happily pay a voluntary contribution to ensure I am not out of pocket when their child becomes eligible for funding.
I would recommend that you check your funding contracts to ensure you get the wording right and that you aren't breaking any terms within it - every LA does things a bit differently.
How to provide funding...
If you wish to offer funding, then your first port of call is your local council, also known as your local authority or LA. If you have no idea which council you fall under, use this tool from the government website to enter your postcode and find out.
From there, look on your local council's website to find out about their policies and processes for funding providers. This website has a list of all the local councils, which you may find useful.
If you feel like you're looking for a needle in a haystack, then call the main switchboard for your local council and ask for the Early Years Funding Team. Explain that you wish to become a funding provider and you would like help to set it up. Bear in mind you are likely to get an answering machine, so leave a message with your number.
The Early Years Funding Team will most likely get you to a fill out a contract with them and provide you with log in details for your funding portal. In my experience the EY Funding Team provide a great instruction manual for the portal and they're on hand if you need help to set it up.
Ask to be added to the mailing list so you are kept informed of any updates or useful information.
You also need to know the funding rate for your area (2 year old and 3/4 year old funding is different), a schedule for payment dates and the number of weeks in the term that are covered by funding.