I thought it was time to venture back to the sticky subject of the 30-hours free childcare offer which rolled out across the country from September 1.
According to The Department for Education (DfE), more than half of parents eligible to receive 30 hours' free childcare a week have successfully applied to take part in the scheme.
A DfE evaluation of the second round of the 30-hours pilot early roll out programme published at the end of August, found 83% of free entitlement providers and 62% of all registered providers were 'willing and able' to offer the extended hours.
The low level of funding was the main reason given by providers who chose not to offer the extended hours. Other reasons included resource constraints, such as a shortage of staff or venue space, or a lack of demand.
The evaluation also showed that for 32% the 30 hours had increased their hourly delivery cost per child, while 39% said their profits had decreased.
Worryingly, the evaluation adds that financial impacts may not have been fully captured because some providers may not have had enough time to fully understand the financial implications.
At the same time, a new survey carried out by education charity the Pre-school Learning Alliance (PLA) in August revealed some scary statistics.
Nearly two-fifths - that's 38% - of the 1,400 childcare providers who responded to the survey think the 30 hours offer could put them out of business within 12 months.
Although it's not that surprising when you consider a whopping 74%, almost three-quarters, said their current funding from the government is less than the cost of delivering a 30-hour free childcare place. The average shortfall cited was 18%.
Of those that do think they will survive, 49% plan to increase how much they charge for additional, non-funded hours, more than half intend increasing charges for goods and services such as meals and snacks and 42% don't feel confident they have enough places to meet demand.
Commenting on the survey, Neil Leitch, PLA Chief Executive said: 'As one of the Government’s flagship policies, the launch of the 30-hours offer should have been a day of celebration. Instead, all we have is a policy in chaos.
'The Government’s total refusal to tackle, or even acknowledge, the fundamental problem of Early Years underfunding has left providers across the country struggling to find ways of delivering the offer that won’t force them out of business.
'As a result, parents who expected 30 hours of ‘free childcare’...are now facing additional fees and charges.
'It’s time for the government to step up, admit it got this wrong, and fix the mess that it has made.
'Otherwise it will be parents and providers who pay the price.'
Hear, hear Mr Leitch.
With the facts as they currently stand, my position remains unchanged.
There's no doubt that the Government has the ability to make the scheme a success, but it needs to listen to the childcare sector: the 30-hour policy is flawed and there needs to be a significant increase in funding to make it work.