Government plans to provide £400m of childcare funding have been described as the 'right step' by a Suffolk parent, but have caused concerns among the county's nurseries about paying for staff.

Working parents of three and four-year-olds currently receive 30 hours a week of Government -funded childcare, but from April parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of funded childcare.

Then from September, children aged nine months and above will be offered 15 hours of funding.

East Anglian Daily Times: How have Suffolk families and nurseries responded to the plans?How have Suffolk families and nurseries responded to the plans? (Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

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From September 2025, parents of children aged under five will be able to access 30 hours of childcare funding.

Felixstowe father-of-two Callum Lightbody sends his son Noah, four, to Felixstowe Nursery School in Ataka Road, while his 19-month-old daughter Rosie is set to join in April, but will not be eligible for the 15 hours of funding until September.

He said the funding move would enable parents to go back to work full-time and not have to face a decision over whether to continue with their career or stay at home and carry on working part-time, but the Government could do more.

East Anglian Daily Times: How have Suffolk families and nurseries responded to the plans?How have Suffolk families and nurseries responded to the plans? (Image: PA)

He added: "It is the right step, but I think for a lot of people it isn't going to make a massive difference to their life as a whole. I think the Government could do more."

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He compared the Government's offer to the situation in Scandinavian countries where childcare is more fully-funded, albeit with much higher levels of taxation than the UK.

But nursery leaders feared they would not be able to cover staffing costs with the increase in funded childcare, especially with the minimum wage for workers aged 21-and-over rising to £11.44 from April.

The current rate is £10.42 for workers aged 23-and-over and £10.18 for workers aged 21 and 22.

Suzanne Cook, manager at Felixstowe Nursery School, said: "Because of the funding, we can only pay them the minimum wage and that makes it very difficult to employ qualified staff because people think that they are not being paid for the work that their care deserves."

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East Anglian Daily Times: Allie Green (left) with staff from Granary Nursery in Felixstowe.Allie Green (left) with staff from Granary Nursery in Felixstowe. (Image: Granary Nursery)

Allie Green, owner and manager at The Granary Nursery School in Framlingham, said whereas before a nursery might have been able to charge parents £10 an hour for a two-year-old, with the Government funding this could be halved to £4 or £5 an hour.

In addition, she said nurseries were not allowed to charge top-up fees - extra charges on top of the funded hours - which would have helped to alleviate the pressure on staffing costs.

She added that levying top-up fees or receiving Government subsidies for staffing would help to ease this problem.

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Larger chains might be able to cope with this situation, Allie said, but smaller, independent nurseries such as her own will find it a struggle.

"Nurseries across the whole country are struggling to recruit and the problem is that you can go and get paid more money working in a supermarket stacking shelves," she added.

She said 'every week' nurseries were closing for financial reasons and the only other alternative would be for nurseries to restrict the number of Government-funded places available.

"In general it is a downward spiral and what I worry about is that we will end up getting a lot of sub-standard nurseries employing a lot of staff that are not sufficiently qualified or experienced to deal with the children that they are coming into contact with," Allie added.

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