THE government is accelerating an increase in funding for nursery places for three- and four-year-olds this year in a bid to help parents and providers with rising costs.
Assistant Children’s and Education Minister Louise Doublet said the decision to bring forward the additional funding — equating to up to £627 per child — followed a series of meetings with the Jersey Early Years’ Association, which represents early years providers in the Island.
The 8% annual increase to the Nursery Education Fund — which provides up to 30 hours per week of nursery education for for three- and four-year-olds during term time — amounts to £228,000 of funding.
This year’s increase, which usually applies from the Autumn Term, is being brought forward, with all NEF-eligible providers receiving the increased funding in the Summer term instead.
In addition, NEF-registered nurseries will receive an extra one-off payment in May, totalling £82,000.
This funding will be allocated based on how many children attend each childcare setting. The smallest settings will receive £1,500, and the largest will receive £6,000.
The UK government recently announced a major extension to free childcare, which means all parents in England of children aged nine months to five years old would receive 30 free hours of childcare per week by September 2025.
There have been calls to extend free childcare in Jersey to help address the Island’s recruitment crisis and ease the financial strain on parents, which has been compared to a ‘second mortgage’.
Belinda Lewis, speaking on behalf of JEYA, said: ‘Bringing this subsidy forward acknowledges the rise in costs providers are experiencing. The one-off payment will help the members of JEYA maintain the standard of childcare they are proud to offer children and their parents. It will also help support children to continue to develop their skills through valuable experiences in the care of registered nurseries and pre-schools. JEYA continues to enjoy a strong working relationship with government.’
Deputy Doublet said: ‘I am still working with officers and with JEYA to review the early years sector. However, I am very aware that parents and providers are telling us that they need action now.
‘That is why I have brought forward this year’s NEF increase, and why I sought and have provided additional funding to invest in children’s experiences in their nursery settings. The measures will help offset the increased costs for providers, and avoid this cost being passed on to parents.’
She added: ‘These measures are a sign of how important this sector is, not just to families, but to the economy as whole. Parents rely on having access to early years provision so that they can continue to work; meanwhile, children who receive high-quality care and early education will see the benefits throughout their lives.’