Tories' 30 hours a week childcare pledge at risk - MPs
The Government may not be able to meet its manifesto pledge of giving all three and four-year-olds 30 free hours of childcare a week, MPs have warned.
At last year's general election the Conservatives pledged to double the number of hours from their current level of 15 per week.
But the Public Accounts Committee says some nurseries will choose not to offer the extra hours because they fear they will lose out financially.
"Private and voluntary providers report that the amount they currently get paid for providing free childcare is not enough to cover their costs and they therefore rely on charging parents for additional hours or other sources of income to meet them," today's PAC report says.
"There is a risk that providers, who can choose whether or not to offer parents 'free' childcare, will choose not to offer the new entitlement of a further 15 hours because doing so would reduce their opportunity to charge parents for hours outside of the entitlement."
The MPs recommend small-scale pilot schemes for the Department for Education to test whether providers are ready to offer parents the extra hours.
They also warned that many parents were "unsure what their rights to free childcare are" under the current system - a problem which would only get worse when the new entitlement kicks in.
But the Department for Education said it disagreed with the PAC's conclusions, arguing it was "speculation" to suggest providers would not be ready.
A spokeswoman said there had been "huge demand" from providers to offer the extra free hours.