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Funding for childcare providers

2gether - Early Years Entitlement for Disadvantaged 2 Year Olds

Guidance, conditions and processes for childcare providers on the operation of the 2gether programme, including the Provider Portal.

This guidance, for childcare providers who have expressed an interest in being, or have been, approved as a “2gether Provider”, is intended to give basic background information on Devon’s 2gether programme and details of systems, processes and conditions.

It should be read alongside the “Local conditions of funding free early education for two, three and four year olds, September 2014 – August 2015”. Devon’s plans to review/revise systems and processes relating to all such funding will without doubt result in changes as we develop the 2gether scheme, something that providers will be kept advised of.

Background

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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Age 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 funding period beginning on or following 1st April after the child’s second birthday
1 April and 31 August 1 April Start of funding period beginning on or following 1st September after the child’s second birthday
1 September and 31 December 1 September Start of funding period beginning on or following 1st January after the child’s second birthday

Criteria

Eligibility Criteria - Economic

A child is entitled to a 2gether place if a parent/carer receives any of the following benefits:

  • Universal Tax Credits.
  • Income Support (IS).
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA).
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
  • Child Tax Credit with an annual household taxable income (as assessed by HMRC) not over £16,190.
  • Working Tax Credits with an annual household taxable income (as assessed by HMRC) not over £16,190.
  • The Working Tax Credit 4 weeks run on.
  • Guaranteed Element of State Pension Credit.
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

Eligibility Criteria – Non economic

Besides the economic criteria above a child will be entitled to a 2gether place if:

  • The child attracts Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • If they are looked after by the Local Authority.
  • If they have left care through Special Guardianship or through an Adoption Order or Residence Order
  • If they have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an Education, Health and Care Plan.

All eligibility is checked and places approved by Devon County Council.

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

  • 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
  • Complete an on line application which can found at www.devon.gov.uk/2gether

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.

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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 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. Devon’s quality monitoring processes will be used to further inform the approval of 2gether providers with a satisfactory last Ofsted outcome.

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. 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 for moves between approved 2gether providers, using the Provider Portal to record amendments for children joining and leaving. If a move/transfer is out of County, to a non 2gether provider or a child leaves the programme the provider again will make an amendment using the Provider Portal to return funded hours. If a parent wishes to increase or decrease weekly hours after they have made their headcount week choice, again that amendment can be made through the Provider Portal, post headcount amendment period. With effect from Spring term 2015, cross border arrangements with neighbouring Local Authorities will be in place and will work in the same way as they do for EYEF, with the Authority whose childcare provider  it is paying for 2 year old approved children from the neighbouring Local Authority.

The hourly 2gether rate paid to providers is currently £4.96, however this rate might be reduced to £4.88 from the start of the 2014/15 financial year.

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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, in particular as the Provider Portal is introduced. 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.
  3. For providers not yet using the Provider Portal -  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.

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.

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. All funded childminders must provide a termly estimate of their numbers and will be sent an e-mail by the EYEF Helpdesk each term seeking those figures by a certain deadline.

Headcount Week/Balance Payments. Providers will complete separate 2gether headcount input which will detail approved 2gether children that were with them the previous term and continue to meet the age eligibility for 2gether funding.

N.B. 2gether headcount returns will show all 2 year old children that you have registered but you can only claim 2gether for those showing as “funded”.

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 in, in accordance with the Provider Portal Guidance.

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 return and complete the hours claimed for the term.
  • Complete and retain a Child’s Information Form (CIF) and copy of date of birth evidence.

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 – Prior to the introduction of the Provider Portal, in order that claims could be made for new 2gether children starting after headcount week, manual claims were sent during but before the end of a funding period. Such claims will now be made using the Portal as “Post Headcount Week Amendments”. This also now applies to EYEF. It should be noted though that such 2gether post headcount week claims can only be made from the date of award letter or the child’s start date if later than that award letter.

Child transfers from other 2gether providers

Providers must ensure that children being transferred to them under the scheme are already eligible. Providers can do that by having sight of the original 2gether Award Letter, or if that has been mislaid;

  • Obtain confirmation from the previous provider.
  • Contacting EYEF Helpdesk for confirmation on 01392 385530

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

Although not directly involved now in approving 2gether places, Children’s Centres 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. They can also help and support a parent/carer with their application for a 2gether place and finding an approved 2gether provider.

A parental declaration on the 2gether Application will include 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 some 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.

Rob Cornock -- 2gether Project Manager

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