Plans to raise child care charges

PARENTS will have to fork out more money for child care if council plans are approved.

Hartlepool Borough Council is proposing to increase the amount parents pay for their children to attend the OSCARs after school and holiday club sessions.

OSCARs is an all-year round childcare service operated by the council open to children aged between three and 16, extended to 18 if the young person has “additional needs” and is still in education.

The existing price structure was agreed in August 2010 and it is proposed to increase prices from September this year.

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Officers are planning to increase the price of the after school session from £7.20 to £7.50, a rise of 30p.

Also the holiday club sessions could increase from £16.75 to £17.50, a rise of 75p.

The after school service operates from 3.15pm to 6pm for 39 weeks a year.

The holiday service operates from 8.30am to 5.45pm for 11 weeks of the year and the quality and standards of care at both are rated as good by Ofsted.

The price hikes are proposed to make sure the service is sustainable.

Officers are also proposing introducing a breakfast club during school holidays at a cost of £1 to cover costs after support from parents.

Independent councillor Cath Hill, portfolio holder for children’s services, is due to meet officers next week to discuss the proposed rises.

A report by Danielle Swainston, the council’s head of access and strategic planning, said: “There is a risk that if fees are increased, parents will choose to remove their children from the childcare due to affordability.

“This will initially reduce income. Research carried out to ascertain where parents live who access OSCARs show that the majority come from more affluent areas therefore implying that a rise in fees will not have substantial impact.

“Parents on low incomes can claim working tax credits for child care and therefore will not feel the impact of the increases.

“It must also be noted that the increases are relatively small.”

The portfolio holder is asked to approve the increases in prices for out of school care and holiday care and to approve OSCARs to deliver a breakfast club during the school holidays.

The meeting is due to take place on Tuesday, June 19, at 10am at the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road.