A community nursery provider’s decision to increase the minimum number of hours means adding fees that parents can’t afford, a councillor has claimed.
Parents’ concerns about the changes planned by One YMCA were discussed at this week’s Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Monday, May 23).
“Instead of offering the children 30 hours that they can have free of charge, they have to now take 10 hours a day minimum,” she said.
“Parents have got to pay for any extra, and they’ve got to go 51 weeks a year instead of term-time only.
“This has meant, or is going to mean, a huge increase in the fees for parents and they literally can’t afford it.
“Is that anything that we’re looking at that we can do to actually help the parents who are in this terrible situation,” she asked.
Wendy Beeton-Townshend, head of early help and intervention at the council replied that she had been talking to One YMCA about the matter.
“They are sorry for the distress that they are causing, and they realise that they should have communicated far more effectively,” she said.
“We are working with them to minimise the damage and to work with families to look at a way forward.
“They are prepared to work with families on an individual basis to make sure that families can express their concerns.”
Ms Beeton-Townshend said it is important that early years education is not disrupted, and that children in need are a particular concern for the council.
“I have asked One YMCA to go away and do some more modelling based on some information and data that we shared with them last week.
“I’m waiting for their director of operations to come back to me and I’m hoping that that will happen this week.
“We have another formal meeting with them on June 8 to seek to resolve as much as we possibly can around the issues for our most vulnerable children and young people,” she said.
In a statement to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, a spokesperson for One YMCA said: “We have been serving the people of Herts, Beds and Bucks for more than 135 years, doing everything we are able and can to help those in the community who need it most – especially young people, families and the most vulnerable.
“As such we deeply regret having to make the changes to our operational model at our three Bedford nurseries, especially knowing that it could prevent some families from being able to access our services.
“However with direct operational losses across the three nurseries of more than £339K in the last year alone and no further support or funding available to us, we have had no option.
“We do though remain fully committed to supporting the nurseries – seeking to ensure we can maintain their operation. So that our incredible teams can continue delivering their amazing care and support to all of the children they look after, ” they said.