A GOVERNMENT department has responded after an early years leader said nurseries are struggling because her industry is under-valued.

The Department for Education has said it does support early years services after Alice Bennett, owner of Worcester and Madresfield Early Years Centres said they were underfunding nurseries.

Mrs Bennett said: “I can’t pay my overheads or my staff properly on just £4.14 an hour. The government funding level is too low and unfairly varies from county to county.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want to support early years providers in delivering high quality care and education, which is why in September the Chancellor announced extra funding to increase hourly rates for the Government’s free hours offers for 2020-21.

“This means no council can receive less than £4.38 per hour for the three- and four-year-old entitlements from September 2020.”

MORE:Sky-high nursery fees down to unfair system says Worcester lead

The department said more than £1m children every year are now benefitting from the Government’s investment in early years education – which will have reached £3.6 billion by next year. They said this will give families the flexibility they need to be able to balance their work and family lives.

It promises to continue to monitor the market closely through a range of research projects which provide insight into various aspects of the childcare and provider market.

Mrs Bennett said it is also unfair for the government to charge early years providers full business rates and VAT on everything they buy, from utilities to toys.

While not all nurseries pay business rates, and nurseries that are regulated by Ofsted are exempt from VAT, Mrs Bennett said these charges which apply to her nurseries make it difficult to pay staff and parents have to pay more to send their children to them.