PARENTS could soon have to pay £1 a day to access childcare provided alongside school breakfast clubs in Rhondda Cynon Taf despite hundreds of people opposing it.
The council’s decision-making cabinet will consider approving the change on Wednesday, January 24 which would see breakfast clubs continue to be free.
There would be a charge of £1 a day or £60 per term (£180 a year), for the additional childcare element, which is available before the start of free breakfast clubs and would come in at the start of the spring term 2024 or as soon as possible after.
Children eligible for free school meals would be exempt from any charge and parents and carers would only pay for the first two children of primary age, living in the same household and using the service.
There were 1,351 responses to the consultation online survey and there were 10 emails and letters received by the council.
In total, 985 of those who responded (73%) disagreed with the proposal to introduce a charge for the additional childcare element of breakfast club with 254 agreeing (19%) and 106 saying they didn’t know (8%).
The council report said there was a general disagreement with the proposal due to reasons such as financial strain, impact on working parents, concerns about implementation and mixed opinions on service use.
Some emphasised the importance of free meals for children, expressing worries that introducing charges may hinder access to nutritious breakfasts.
For those who agreed with the proposal, there was a willingness to pay for the childcare element, understanding the need for financial contributions, especially if it would help maintain the service.
Some had concerns over the misuse of the provision and the need for a small charge to deter those using it solely as free childcare and earlier start times for breakfast clubs was requested to accommodate working parents.
They also mentioned means testing as an alternative to a universal charge, ensuring those who can afford it contribute while those in need received support and the ability to pay for the provision on an ad-hoc basis or if the charge is reasonable.
The council said there would be operational challenges if parents/carers want to pay on an ad-hoc basis and pupils attend as and when required.
These include the administration burden, dietary requirements, digital constraints and staffing levels.
The council report said that the proposal would generate additional income, which would be ring fenced and reinvested back into school budgets.
The report said: “The council is facing significant financial challenges into the medium term and is considering a range of options to contribute to addressing the shortfall in funding.”