Child care price rise

PLANS to increase the cost of council-run child care have been rubber-stamped.

Parents will have to fork out more money after Hartlepool Borough Council agreed to increase the amount they pay for their children to attend the OSCARs after school and holiday club sessions.

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

Independent councillor Cath Hill, portfolio holder for children’s services, agreed to increase prices from September this year.

Officers say the price hikes are necessary to make sure the service is sustainable.

The price of the after school session will rise from £7.20 to £7.50, a rise of 30p.

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

It was also agreed to introduce a breakfast club during school holidays at a cost of £1 to cover costs after support from parents.

Coun Hill said: “I’m obviously not so happy to increase the prices, but I’m sure you are not just putting it up for the sake of it.

“I hope that there will be a good take-up of the breakfast club, the interests from the parents indicate that is the case.

“Child care in Hartlepool is very affordable compared to other neighbouring local authorities.”

The existing price structure was agreed in August 2010.

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.

Danielle Swainston, the council’s head of access and strategic planning, said parents on low incomes can claim working tax credits for child care and therefore will not feel the impact of the increases.

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