A NURSERY manager has warned that if nurseries are not properly funded, they won’t be able to take on children despite the Chancellor increasing government funding for childcare.

Jeremy Hunt said the government will increase funding paid to nurseries providing free childcare by £204 million from this September and rising to £288 million next year.

He said: “This is an average of a 30 per cent increase in the two-year-old rate this year, just as the sector has requested.”

Parents will benefit from this increased funding with 15 free hours of weekly childcare being extended to two-year-olds in April next year. A further extension to cover all children aged nine months and over will apply from September next year.

Paula Goddard, who is the debt centre manager for Christians Against Poverty in Colchester, welcomed the change, saying: “It isn’t going to make an immediate difference but at least we’re working towards change.

“One of the main things that parents are struggling with when returning to work is childcare costs. Many feel there is no benefit to them returning to work, because they can’t afford childcare.”

Sue Townsend, who is the manager of Stepping Stones nursery, located at the Wilson Marriage Centre on Barrack Street, Colchester, thinks that the additional funding is “a step in the right direction”.

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The nursery manager added: “A 30 per cent increase looks good on paper, but when we get down to the actual figures it’s never going to add up, unless [the government] give us considerable money to support children with additional needs.

“These children need to be in nursery to fulfil their potential, but without proper funding nurseries can’t take them on”.

The minimum staff-to-child ratio for two-year-olds is currently one-to-four, but several of the children at Stepping Stones need one-to-one care.

Sue added: “Free childcare is not free to the nursery – the funding doesn’t cover the whole cost. We need to raise nearly £200,000 a year for it to work.

The nursery, which can accommodate 26 children a day when fully staffed, has already suffered from increased costs, with expenditure on essentials including basic snacks like fruit increasing by more than 40 per cent during the cost-of-living crisis.