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Funding for childcare providers

2gether - Early Years Entitlement for Disadvantaged 2 Year Olds


In 2009, the Department for Children, Schools and Families asked Devon and a number of other local authorities, to be part of its pilot programme to support two-year olds and their families living in the most disadvantaged households. Locally, this programme is known as 2gether.

The aim of the pilot was to:

  • Improve outcomes and narrow the gap in educational attainment between disadvantaged children and others
  • Improve outcomes for parents
  • Increase the take-up of the free entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds
  • Build evidence on the impact of the offer to inform central government on the wider roll out of an offer of free learning and childcare places for two year olds

Research showed  that high quality early years provision improved the outcome for these most vulnerable children.

A small number of Children’s Centres and specially approved childcare providers were initially involved, their being in the most disadvantaged areas of the county. Following feedback from pilot authorities Government announced its plans to extend funding to disadvantaged families with 2 year olds and in 2012 2gether was extended to cover the whole of the County.

Government put in place legislation to make this funding an “Entitlement to all disadvantaged families with a 2 year old” with effect from 1 September 2013 and from 1st September 2014 has extended that eligibility.

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Qualification criteria

Children are eligible the start of the funding period  after their 2nd birthday for a maximum of 3 terms, (running then into their 3 & 4 Year Old Early Years Entitlement) using the date of birth qualification dates, 31st March, 31st August and 31st December.

Parents/carers cannot apply for a 2gether place before the start of the funding period in which the child’s second birthday occurs i.e.

Child’s second birthday between: Applications can be made no earlier than: Funding can start from:
1 January and 31 March 1 January Start of summer funding period following their second birthday
1 April and 31 August 1 April Start of autumn funding period following their second birthday
1 September and 31 December 1 September Start of spring funding period following their second birthday

To check eligibility the parent/carer who receives the qualifying benefit must either:

  • Complete an application from www.devon.gov.uk/2gether and email  that in accordance with the instructions on the application
  • Telephone Devon County Council Customer Service Centre on 0345 155 1013 with details of their National Insurance Number, date of birth, name and child details

Referral for places will come from a variety of sources including, childcare providers, health visitors and other professionals and self referral by parents/carers.  Providers cannot commit to offering places without sight of a 2gether Award Letter and we will not provide retrospective funding to providers for periods prior to the date of that letter.

Eligibility Criteria - Economic

A child is eligible for a 2gether place if their family receives one of the following benefits

  • Income Support (IS)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income related)
  • Child Tax Credit with an annual taxable household  income (as assessed by HMRC) of less than £16,190
  • Income based Job Seeker’s Allowance (IBJSA)
  • Guaranteed Element of State Pension Credit
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The Working Tax Credit 4-week run-on payment
  • If their family receives Working Tax Credits and have  annual taxable household income (as assessed by HMRC) of no more than £16,190 per year

Eligibility Criteria - Non Economic

Children are also eligible if:

  • they are looked after by their Local Authority (children in care)
  • they have left care through special guardianship or through an adoption or residence order
  • they have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan
  • they attract Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Foster/adoptee parents or carers and other applicants under these criteria should apply by contacting the 2gether Programme Manager, Rob Cornock by phoning 01392 385537 or emailing rob.cornock@devon.gov.uk

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Approved 2gether childcare providers

Devon’s Early Years and Childcare Service will develop and maintain a register of approved 2gether childcare providers, in order that parent/carers can be signposted to those settings.

Providers must be registered to care for 2 year olds* and must have an Ofsted Good or Outstanding rating to be an approved 2gether provider. Those with a Requires Improvement/Satisfactory Ofsted rating may be accepted as an approved provider, but only if able to demonstrate that it is actively working towards a good rating and demand for places is such that it cannot be met by good/outstanding provision.

If an approved provider subsequently receives less than a good Ofsted, or is deemed through the Quality Monitoring Process to be of a less than adequate standard, the Early Years and Childcare Service will assess whether it will be removed from the register of approved providers or with further intensive support can remain. If removed and in particular if the Ofsted outcome is inadequate, parents will be given the option of moving their child to a 2gether provider of the required quality or leaving the child for the remainder of their period of entitlement. No further 2gether children will be placed while the provider is removed from the register.

2gether providers must give the Early Years and Childcare Service and parents a minimum of 6 weeks notice of their wish to withdraw from the programme. Funds will be returned pro-rata for the weeks from the end of the notice period to the end of the funded period, as it will in the case of the closure of an approved provider.

Providers will sign a special 2gether agreement to be included as an approved provider. This agreement may be ended by Devon County Council immediately where there are safeguarding issues for the Two year Olds on the 2gether scheme or any other child being cared for by the provider.

Providers must notify Devon County Councils Early Years and Childcare Service immediately if temporarily unable to meet the conditions of the Agreement. This will not necessarily affect the continuation of the service and the Local Authority may be able to offer support to enable it to continue.

*Schools with maintained nursery units are able under their school registration to take children the start of the term during which they have their 3rd birthday but must care for those 2 year olds under national standard adult/child ratios. In order to take all 2 year olds they must separately register with Ofsted.

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Childcare offer

The framework within which an approved setting provides the 2gether service matches that of Early Years Entitlement Funding (EYEF) for 3 and 4 year olds namely:

  • Maximum 10 hours per day
  • Minimum 2 ½ hours per day
  • Between the hours of 7:00am and 7:00pm
  • Maximum of 15 hours per week during 38 weeks term time only, or a stretched offer (including 11 hours per week over all year) can now be taken over 2 days

The entitlement is to a maximum of 570 hours per academic year. Each funding period will have an individual maximum number of hours available and providers will be advised of those limitations within the headcount paperwork.

As with EYEF this is a free entitlement to parents/carers. The same conditions, in particular providers not being allowed to charge top up fees, registration/retainer fees and the take up of chargeable services as a condition of providing the free service, apply to 2gether funding.

Transfer of funding will be allowed only for moves between approved 2gether providers. If a move/transfer is out of County, to a non 2gether provider or a child leaves the programme the provider will retain funding for the whole term.

There will for the time being be no cross border arrangements with neighbouring Local Authorities. Where a Devon provider agrees to take a child under another Authorities programme it will be under their terms and funded by them.

The hourly 2gether rate paid to providers is currently £4.96.

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Systems and processes

We intend to align systems and processes to that of EYEF for 3 and 4 Year Olds as far as we can, although there are some differences that we consider need to be in place and the impact of which will be assessed as we roll out the programme. It should also be noted that systems and processes for EYEF are currently being reviewed and changes are likely as we go through the year and beyond, which might also affect 2gether funding.

  1. A parent/carer uses Devon’s 2gether Eligibility Checking Service, as detailed above, to check that they are eligible for a place for their child
  2. If eligible an Award Letter will be sent. This will then be taken by the parent/carer to their chosen 2gether provider to arrange appropriate childcare. The provider must have sight of the Award Letter and will be asked to confirm that and note its date with their first claim
    N.B. Award letters can be issued during the funding period of the child’s second birthday. Care must be taken by providers to ensure that the entitlement is not agreed too early as they will not be able to claim for that childcare
  3. The provider must complete, with the parent/carer, a 2gether Childcare Registration and Claim Form, a Children’s Information Form (CIF) and take a copy of date of birth evidence provided

Forecast Payments (not applicable to maintained school nursery units) will be based on the total EYEF and 2gether funding received in the previous funding period. If a provider expects child numbers to be significantly different from that of the previous period they should contact the Early Years Funding Helpdesk. Forecast payments are usually processed during the first week of a term.

N.B. Funded Childminders must provide a termly estimate and will recieve a termly email from the EYEF Helpdesk advising when this has to be provided.

Headcount Week/Balance Payments. Providers will receive a separate 2gether headcount form which will detail approved 2gether children that were with them the previous term and continue to meet the age eligibility for 2gether funding. Providers deal with those children listed on the 2gether headcount in the same way as they do the EYEF headcount, including and in particular in recording total hours per term, deleting any children that have left the setting and adding others that have started.

It is important to note that the headcount claim for a new 2gether approved child will be for the number of weeks/hours the child is with you not for the whole term based on the service provided during Headcount Week i.e. if a child only starts with you during headcount week you will not be claiming for those before they started. However if a 2gether child transfers to you having already attended another setting before headcount week your claim will be for the whole period as the original provider will request a transfer of funding for the weeks before transfer that they had the child.

If a new 2gether child joins at any time from the start of a funding period/term until the end of Headcount Week (schools refer to this as Census Week) you should not send claims in separately but:

  • Add that new child to the headcount form and complete the hours claimed for the term
  • Attach a completed Childcare Registration and Claim Form, Child’s Information Form (CIF) and copy of date of birth evidence
  • Forward all of the above by the headcount deadline to the EYEF team (together with your usual EYEF paperwork if appropriate)

Headcount returns, if appropriate for both 2gether and EYEF, will result in a combined balancing payment. Headcount paperwork will advise of when that balancing payment is due to be made.

Post Headcount Week starters - Unlike EYEF for 3 & 4 Year Olds we will continue to pay for new 2gether children that start with a provider after headcount week. For such children you must send to Rob Cornock 2gether Programme Manager, as soon as a child starts with you, the fully completed 2gether Childcare Registration and Claim Form, CIF and copy date of birth evidence. These claims must be received by the last day of the funding period i.e. 31st March, 31st August, 31st December. A final payment will be made for those claims on or around that date.

The “child in by headcount week” rule which applies to EYEF will not be used in order that a 2gether child can be placed at any time during a term and providers know that they will be paid for the number of hours provided from their joining until the end of the period.

As already stated above, where a 2gether child moves to another 2gether provider, funds for the remaining hours in the term/period must be transferred by the existing provider to the new one.

2gether children transfers - Providers must ensure that children being transferred to them under the scheme from another 2gether provider, are already eligible. Providers can do that by either:

  • Having sight of the original 2gether Award Letter
  • Obtaining confirmation from the previous provider
  • Contacting EYEF Helpdesk for confirmation on 01392 385530.

If that transfer happens before headcount week and you have to add the child’s details to your 2gether Headcount Form please write by the side of the name “Transfer in”.

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Children’s Centre roles and responsibilities and relationship with 2gether providers

Although since September 2013 Children’s Centres have not been approving 2gether places they are still regarded as important to the success of this programme in particular in taking the opportunity that any referral provides in assessing wider family support needed besides the free childcare and ensuring that children and their families can access appropriate early help once a problem has been identified.

A parental declaration on the 2gether Application Form includes authority for contact details to be passed by us to their local Children’s Centre, who will then contact the family to discuss other services and support that might be appropriate.

The relationship between childcare provider and Children’s Centre is vital and providers must recognise that children placed under the programme are by the nature of the scheme, the more vulnerable in the County. Providers are expected to;

  • Promote and signpost parents to local Children’s Centres in particular where they have any concerns, including those of irregular attendance and absence
  • Agree to the sharing of information with Children’s Centres as an essential condition of being an approved provider

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For any other enquiries contact Rob Cornock, 2gether Project Manager, on 01392 385537 or email rob.cornock@devon.gov.uk

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