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Wiltshire LA complaint over breach of Provider Agreement

Early Years Equality

9 Dec 2022

Wilts LA works with EYE following accusation of threatening and unreasonable behaviour.

Threats and Potential Breach of Provider Agreement

It was been brought to our attention by several Wiltshire Providers that Wiltshire Council EY team has sent a survey titled "Early Years Entitlement Self-Assessment Checklist- Fee information for parents" which demands for it's return by "11.59pm on Friday 16th December.  Failure to complete this survey by the 16th December will affect any January funding payment you might be due."

Providers have told us that this email is 'controlling', 'micro managing us out of existence', with one provider stating 'What are we supposed to actually do to ensure our businesses are sustainable? I’d give up offering the funding but I want to actually help the families I provide childcare for!".

We have investigated the email and the survey and responded to Wiltshire Council with the following:

Dear Wiltshire Early Years Team

It has been brought to our attention by several Wiltshire providers that they they have recently received a survey request from Wiltshire Early Years Team, with unreasonable turnaround times for the return of survey (in light of their current statutory duties to the children in their care, reduced workforce due to staffing crisis, seasonality and end of term next week for many etc) alongside a very unnecessary threat  'Failure to complete this survey by the 16th December will affect any January funding payment you might be due."

Upon reviewing your Provider Agreement, specifically section 17. Termination & Withdrawal of Funding, we are unable to see in the 4 clauses listed by you, any reference to state that failure to return surveys will result in funding payments being affected.  This appears to be a breach of Wiltshire Council's Provider Agreement and your obligations to Providers.  We are considering an official complaint to Wiltshire Council and the DfE.

We would however like to give Wiltshire Early Years team the opportunity to work in partnership with Providers more closely and rectify what we can only hope is an oversight, by

a) Increasing the turnaround time for the return of the survey to the first week in January

b) Removing the threat of Provider's January payment being affected

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Early Years Equality

We hope that Wiltshire EY Team will be able to rectify the above and actively work in partnership with what is an already overstretched, underfunded and undervalued sector. But we will keep you updated and will keep our fingers crossed that they do decide to do the right thing by our hard working providers - we just want what's best for the children...

*EDIT - 9th Dec 4.18pm - We have since received a positive response from Wiltshire EY Team:

"...can only apologise that you felt that the submission timescale for the second Early Years Entitlement self-assessment survey was unreasonable, and that you felt we were threatening early years providers. I can assure it was not our intention to put unnecessary pressure on or threaten early years providers in any way - We will email all early years providers this afternoon with a revised submission date and state January payments will not be affected if submissions miss this revised deadline."

CONGRATULATIONS WILTSHIRE LA on working with us and our wonderful providers. We hope this is the start of positive working relationship to help save the sector from collapse.

If you've received what you believe to be a threatening or unreasonable contact from your LA, which you feel may be in breach of your Provider Agreement from your LA, do get in touch with us.

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