No breakfast clubs fee - for now
Updated 11:39am Thursday 5th June 2014 in Monmouthshire news
CABINET members pulled a report at the last minute yesterday which proposed charges for childcare at breakfast clubs at 26 of the county's primary schools.
Cabinet were due to discuss the report which looked to rubberstamp proposals for a daily £1 charge on each child who attends any of its clubs from September in order to reduce “budget pressures”.
But yesterday afternoon, it was announced that the cabinet has asked council officers to provide more analysis to support the proposal and it has now been deferred.
Cllr Liz Hacket Pain, cabinet member with responsibility for education, said: “We have asked for more information before we consider this proposal further. We are very mindful of the most vulnerable in our communities and we want to be sure of any impact this might have.”
The clubs are currently free and are held between 8am and 9am every school day.
Prior to the report being deferred a number of parents expressed their worry about the proposed charges.
Samantha Winstone, of Caldicot, whose five-year-old twins Cameron and Harri attend Ysgol y Ffin in Caldicot, said introducing charges for the breakfast club would make it harder for her to get a job.
Mrs Winstone, of Firs Road, said: “I am hoping to go back to work and would use the breakfast club for that reason. The idea of charging would mean the cost would mount up to £10 a week for my twins and £80 a term.
“It would certainly affect my decision to go back to work and put many parents out of a job.
“Although it would still be cheaper than a childminder, it is a cost you have to add into your budget.”
Cllr Armand Watts, who represents Thornwell, said his ward had the highest uptake of the clubs in the county and that he too was opposed to any charging.
He said: “If you’ve got children, it adds up with other increasing costs - and then there’s extra council tax. People are finding that an additional struggle. There’s a lot of people in that difficult position and they are really, really struggling.
“The people who make these decisions are not in that position. They do not get it.”
Although council officers conceded in the report that there might be a negative impact on low income and single parent families by charging, they said this would be mitigated because children on free school meals would be exempt from paying them.
And they said children entitled to free school meals are twice as likely to attend as those who are not.
Not all parents were opposed to the charge.
Lucy Fear, who occasionally uses a breakfast club at The Dell School in Chepstow for her daughter, said: “It wouldn’t stop me using the facilities if I had to pay a pound. But it’s another difficulty for parents. They are struggling anyway.”
While Caldicot mum-of-eight Catherine Ashwell-Rice said she is hoping to attend college next year and will rely on the breakfast clubs then.
Ms Ashwell-Rice, 36, of Lapwing Avenue, said the hourly £1 charge is far cheaper than a childminder and described it as a “bargain”.
The charge would be used to pay for child care and would be collected and kept by each participating school.
The Welsh Government, who provided grant funding for the clubs until April last year when money for them was transferred to the local government settlement, does not allow charging for food at them.
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