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Provider FAQs for funded places

These frequently asked questions will advise providers on how they can offer early education funded (EEF) places.

Providers should also refer to the current Provider Agreement 2024 found on the Overview.

 

Answer:

From April 2024 children from 2 to 4 years old could be eligible for funded hours. From September 2024 this will be extended to eligible children aged from 9 months. Criteria applies. 

Information on current entitlements and what is coming soon can be found on our funding page for parents. This includes information on criteria and when children can access funding and how parents apply. 

Eligible children could access funded hours up until and including the term a child turns 5 years old if attending a childminder, a private, independent, voluntary or governor run nursery or preschool. But children attending a primary school reception class from the age of 4 years old are not eligible for funding as reception class is a full time school placement.

Answer:
  • Think2 – funding for 2 year olds - for disadvantaged or low income families. Once eligibility is confirmed families do not lose funding and will receive this be seamlessly until the child becomes eligible for the Universal Hours for 3 and 4 year olds.

  • Universal Hours for 3 and 4 year olds – all 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to this funding and families do not lose funding. 
  • Working Parent Entitlements – from 2 year to 4 years – if parents fall out of eligibility, they could lose funding. Parents must reconfirm their eligibility through *Childcare Choices every 3 months. Also see section for Grace Periods.
    • Parents of 3 and 4 year olds who are eligible will have access to 30 hours of funded childcare. Families who fall out of eligibility for the working parent entitlements will still have access to the Universal Hours.
    • *Foster Cares will be prompted to reconfirm by the Council
Answer:

Think2 – providers should simply add Staffordshire codes to the Parent Declaration and Privacy Notice and claim in the next applicable headcount task.


Working Parent Entitlements - Providers must validate all eligibility before they can claim for the applicable funded hours. This is done via the online EY Portal account where you will also find user guides for validating codes and claiming.

The dates of the code being valid will not necessarily be when funding can start from. Providers must check and confirm when the funded hours start date commences.

Answer:

Families who have successfully applied must reconfirm their eligibility every 3 months with Childcare Choices* or they could lose their eligibility.

Parents should receive reminders from Childcare Choices to reconfirm and would need to log into their gateway account to reconfirm.


* Foster carers will be prompted by the responsible local authority.

Answer:

Grace periods are and extended period of funding that families could receive if they fall out of eligibility for the Working Parent Entitlements. The table below outlines the parameters of grace periods.

Grace Periods
Date Parent receives ineligible decisionGrace period end date
1 January – 10 February 31 March
11 February – 31 March 31 August
1 April – 26 May 31 August
27 May – 31 August 31 December
1 September – 21 October 31 December
22 October – 31 December 31 March

Once the grace period has ended for 3 and 4 years, they will still be able to access the Universal Entitlement. Children aged 9 months to 2 years accessing the Working Parent Entitlements but who fall out of eligibility, will mean parents will have to pay for their childcare but can review if they could receive other support for childcare costs at Childcare choices

Answer:

Children cannot access the Working Parent Entitlements at a Provider when the family are already in the grace period. This includes the following scenarios:

  • Where a Parent falls into their grace period before the child starts their EEF hours.
  • Where a Parent falls into their grace period whilst their child is attending a Provider for their entitlement, and the parent then moves the child to a different provider whilst in their grace period.

These scenarios are also applicable when a Provider submits a claim for a child who was eligible at the time, but the child entered the grace period later and before starting their EEF hours.

In exceptional circumstances, The Council has the discretion to extend the “grace period” set out in clause 8.19 for a short time, i.e. if a Parent has been forced to leave their home and paid employment due to being a victim of domestic abuse or other emergency situations, or the child
moves from the Provider as they are rated Inadequate, closes or Parent is fleeing other crime. Providers should advise the EEF Finance team in such cases.

Answer:

From April 2024, funding rates for PVI, childminders and maintained governor run provision is as follows: 

  • Under two year olds - working parent entitlement - £9.48 per hour, per child 
  • 2 year olds (Think2) and new working parent entitlement - £7.56 per hour, per child (previously £7.55 for Think2) 
  • 3 and 4 year olds, universal and extended hours - £5.08 per hour, per child. (previously £4.86).

Deprivation supplement rates for 3 and 4 year olds only will be as follows:

  • £0.20 lower rate - (per hour, per child for every funded three and four year old in attendance) if between 10-32% of funded children reside in attendance with postcodes in the 20% most deprived areas. Settings eligible for this could have an hourly rate of £5.28 per hour for 3 and 4 year olds.
  • £0.30 higher rate - (per hour, per child for every funded three and four year old in attendance) if between 33-100% of funded children in attendance with postcodes in the 20% most deprived areas. Settings eligible for this could have an hourly rate of £5.38 per hour for 3 and 4 year olds.

 

The Contingency fund will continue, this is to mitigate financial risk and to manage any unforeseen budget variances as a result of changes in demand. This will be c. 0.7% of the overall budget. Any unused contingency will be returned to the sector in the following year (subject to affordability). 

Government guidance instructs local authorities that they must pass through at least 95% of their funding from the government to early years providers. The Staffordshire Early Education Funding rates for 2024-25 will ensure a budgeted funding pass-through rate of 98% to providers.

Answer:
It is at the discretion of childcare providers to determine the days and times funding is offered. Providers must offer funding within the following parameters:
  • no more than a maximum of 10 funded hours in a day
    • 15 hours entitlements can be taken in no less than across 2 days
    • 30 hour entitlements can be taken in no less than across 3 days
  • no set minimum amount of funded hours that need to be offered in a single day.
  • offered between the hours of 6:00am to 8:00pm - Monday to Friday
  • can be offered at weekends
Answer:
Providers can choose to offer funded hours as:
  • across 38 weeks of the year - often aligned to school term times, but it does not have to be,
  •  'stretch' offer which is over more weeks (than 38) of the year but for less funded hours per week as they are 'stretched' out,
  • a mixture of both 38 weeks and stretch - providers can be flexible depending on the requirements of their families i.e. one child may have funding over 38 weeks, whereas another child could have funding as stretched.

Please note: a single child cannot be claimed as both 38 weeks and stretch, at the same setting/ site.

Additional guidance on flexibility: 

  • Parents can only change from 38 week / term time offer to stretched (or vice versa) at the beginning of a new term.
  • Providers must supply funded hours in the same manner as they claim it. For example: if funding is claimed for a child as 38 weeks, this is how the funded hours must be given to the family. Similarly, providers who claim funding a stretched must give funding to families as stretched.

Important: Providers should keep track of funding used up by a child when changing from stretch to term time funding or when a child has moved from another setting.

There could occasions when a child could use up their entitlement before the end of the third term in a 12 month period. This can occur when a child has changed from stretched to 38 week offer or vice versa. Parents have still had access to their entitlements but depending how a child access funding could be in some terms more funded hours are used up than the counterpart offer i.e. summer stretched could use up more funded hours than the 38 week offer, but in autumn term the 38 week offer could use up more funded hours than if supplied as stretched. 

For details and considerations around this please see the section for Understanding Funded Places on funding explained page

Answer:
For example, a 3 year old eligible for 30 hours attending a provider offering funding as stretched over 48 weeks per year:

Total of 1140 hours / 48 weeks = 23 hrs, 45 mins of funding per week.

Answer:
Full details of term and payments funding is used can be  found on our advice page.

Funding can be supplied and claimed as follows:

  • Spring term (1 January to 31 March) - '38 week' offer 11 Weeks / 'Stretch' offer 12 Weeks
  • Summer term (1 April to 31 August) - '38 week' offer 13 Weeks / 'Stretch' offer 20 Weeks
  • Autumn term (1 September to 31 December) - '38 week' offer 14 Weeks / 'Stretch' offer 16 Weeks

Funding offer in hours.

  • The standard offer is calculated over 38 weeks can be claimed as: 
    > Universal/ Think2 offer - 15 hours per week 
    > 30 hours - 30 hours per week

  • The stretch offer is often calculated over 48 weeks as:
    > universal hours/ Think2 - 11.88 hours per week
    > 30 hours at 23.75 hours  per week 

*Please note - families do not have to take up their full entitlement of hours.

Find details of the headcount and payment dates

Answer:
Yes, parents can choose to split funding between multiple providers of any type (including school based provision), but no more than across two sites in a single day. Parents must decide which provider/s claim for what amount of hours and the parent has sole discretion as to which provider claims for the extended hours in a split arrangement.
Answer:
This must be identified through the parental declaration and privacy notice, which parents must complete when claiming funded places. Providers are responsible for this. This is a legal requirement. These only need to be shared if requested by the council as part of a dispute or audit.
Answer:

If parents require additional hours that are not supplied as funded by the provider, consumables such as nappies, food, trips, external activities and so on, then providers can charge for these and the parent would expect to pay for these extras This is because funded hours cover the hours/ period of education supplied by the provider. Providers are asked to be mindful of some charges for the most disadvantaged children i.e. Think2 which could be waiving costs, allowing parents to bring in their own food or nappies. But it is up to Providers on how to respond to parents requests

*providers have the discretion on what days/ hours funding is offered.

However, legislation is clear that parents can have access to funded hours only without the need to access and therefore additional hours, consumables and services not covered by funded hours. This means so long as the *provider has the availability within the funded package of offer; a parent should be able to access the funded hours only. Provides should be not be charging for elements a parent is not taking or accessing just to gain access to a funded as this can create barriers to access. This is unless an agreement is in place between providers and parent.

Answer:

No, providers can only claim for funded hours that have been agreed the child will attend for at the provision*. Parents are under no obligation to take up the full entitlement and may choose to use some hours with another provider. Providers can only claim from the date a child starts at the setting and is eligible for funded hours.

* Providers must supply funded hours from the outset of claiming for the child. Providers cannot hold back funding and charge parents in the meantime to then reimburse them at a later date (i.e. end of the term).

Answer:

Early years provision is defined in section 20 of the 2006 Act as the provision of childcare. “Childcare”, as defined in section 18 of the 2006 Act, specifically excludes care provided for a child by a parent, step-parent, foster parent (or other relative) or by a person who fosters the child privately or has parental responsibility for the child. Early years provision by a childminder (either independently registered with Ofsted or registered with a childminder agency) for a related child does not count as childcare in legal terms.

Government early education funding cannot be claimed by, or spent on, childminders providing childcare for their own child or a related child, even if they are claiming for other children.

The Statutory guidance does state a local authority can chose to fund children related to childminders from other sources of funds. Unfortunately, there are no additional sources to fund children at a children to receive childcare at related childminders, in addition to going against the legislation of the Childcare Act that the Department for Education do not want to fund childminders to look after their own or related children.

Answer:

Providers must inform parents from the outset how the funded hours can be accessed and offered to parents. Providers must also clearly inform parents what their fees are for non funded services and consumables if the parent wishes to have these.

Providers can charge for (not an exclusive list)  food, snacks, transport, nappies, suncream, trips, extra activities, if these are accessed by the child. Parents must be advised of the charges from the outset of a funded place. 

Answer:
The government's legislation is clear the providers must not charge parents the difference between the rate the Council pays for a funded hour and what the provider charges per hour (calculated hourly rate), or for any additional service/ charge, or nor consumable that the child is not accessing.

This would be particularly relevant to children accessing just the funded hours who might a low income household or vulnerable (i.e. Think2) as this could lead to barriers in the child accessing funded hours.
Answer:
Yes, providers can charge for a deposit so parents can secure a placement, though providers should consider whether a charge should be applied to a some families i.e. Think2. Such a deposit can be kept if the child does not start the placement, but providers should reimburse a deposit (or off-set against paid for services) by the end of the same term a child starts a Think2 funded placement.
Answer:

Providers must clearly outline the number of funded hours supplied to the child/ family for the invoice period and monetary value of those funded hours. Providers must also clearly outline any charges the parent has to pay for i.e. additional hours, meals, services and other consumables. 

Providers showing funded hours in any invoice as 0, does not meet this requirement.

Answer:

For absence or sporadic attendance; providers are not required to inform the council of absence (unless there is a welfare concern) until a child has reached 20 full days of absence (whether over consecutive or sporadic days), or 30%* absence within a single term.

Providers can refer to the Staffordshire attendance policy ref absence explained, what the council will fund and actions providers can take

Upon reviewing the reasons for absence, the Council will then determine if funding can be extended to cover continued and legitimate reasons for absence. However, we have discretion to remove or adjust funding if there is no valid reason for absence that has gone beyond the parameters of absence.

If a child leaves the provision outright; the provider can inform the EEF Team, or the provider must reflect the leaving date in the next amendment or actual task for the term. Any overclaims will be claimed back by the Council as funding will always follow the child.

Answer:

Unfortunately, due to the many variables and the fact the funded hours belong to the child, we will not pay for breaches of notice periods by parents as this is private business that local authorities cannot be involved with.

Answer:
All the above can be found on our provider funding page which includes information on the early years portal where you validate 30 hour codes, process headcount tasks, parent declaration, agreements etc.

Quick link for EY portal and guidance notes.

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