In August, THIS ARTICLE appeared in the Evening Times Newspaper. (Have a read)
It detailed how Glasgow City Council were increasing the cost of Early Years nursery place to £2 per hour. This might not sound like a lot but effectively it was double what prices had previously been.
The worst part was to come. The council was taking away the power from the individual nurseries to collect payment from parents, usually very straightforward. The parents were informed that they would get an invoice in the post which they could pay on a monthly basis, or set up a monthly direct debit. That sounded reasonable at first but when August came and went and hardly anyone received their invoice, it started to become obvious that Glasgow City Council might not be up to the challenge of managing this operation quite in the way they’d hoped.
In mid January I heard that lot’s of people who’d been waiting for invoices to arrive had gotten them through but were being told flatly that they had SEVEN DAYS to pay the outstanding amount, in some cases over £700, or their children would lose their places and they would be taken to court. I heard that some women were leaving the Nursery Centre in tears because they had been told that the centre was having to reduce their child’s hours of care (on the orders of the council) and what did this mean for their jobs? How were they going to find someone to care for their child? It was a catch 22, massive bill they couldn’t pay, reduced nursery hours therefor reduced working hours, less money and facing court action?!?
I was shocked at all of this. I was EVEN more shocked when I saw THIS ARTICLE in the Evening Times.The Council were trying to lay the blame for this MASSIVE cock-up at the door of the hundreds and hundreds of parents who had been invoiced after 7 months and were now struggling to pay a massive backdated bill. They were making out that people just hadn’t been paying, rather than the Council being so horrificly managed that they had rushed through a new system without the proper means to put it into place.
Eventually I got an invoice (had to call and demand that they EMAIL me it) from August to February was for OVER £600 and the other was for £125 for Feb-March period. I was told I could pay as much as I could per month to the large balance (“As long as you pay something per month it should be fine!”) but had to pay February’s invoice immediately to stop hours being reduced.
I paid off the fee for the month PLUS an extra £50 to the larger amount. I had a call from someone to make sure I’d paid February off but other than that I didn’t receive any other correspondence.
Then Friday the 16th April I get a letter from the Council telling me that says,
‘Despite previous demands for payment, I have failed to settle the above noted amount (£582.00) IN FULL. Unless payment is received within 7 days of this letter, court action will commence forthwith and you may be liable for any expenses incurred. You are warned that when decree has been obtained, enforcement action will be taken which could result in an EARNINGS ARRESTMENT or BANK ARRESTMENT. Where appropriate the City Council may consider Sequestration proceedings against you. This action could seriously affect your credit rating.
These ‘previous demands’ for payment had come as a shock to me since I hadn’t had any letters from the Council whatsoever. I contacted the Early Year’s team today and was told that ‘maybe they had got lost in the post?‘, well that would be highly odd since I get every other piece of mail without issue. I am informed that the initial ’4 week block’ that was placed on the large amount has since come to an end (really?) and the Council require payment IMMEDIATELY. I informed the nice lady that as a parent on a low-income (working part-time) and a student that I simply did not have nearly £600 to pay out. I offered to pay the council at £50 per month but apparently ‘they do not have the facility to set up payment agreements but that is something they are looking at for next year!’ (helpful). I’m told that there will be an 8 week block put on any further action being taken but that the amount MUST be paid or my son’s hours will be reduced to the basic 3 hours per day and I will be pursued for the outstanding amount.
So, in summary, the Council have screwed up royally by trying to centralise the fees payments for 126 nurseries, not had the correct systems and procedures in place and now hard-working parents are facing having to jeopardise their jobs because their child’s daycare hours are reduced and credit ratings are being destroyed because they are being pursued through the courts rather than being allowed to agree payment plans where appropriate. I understand that many people will be able to afford more than others but in the cases of LOW INCOME parents, how is it good practise to put full pressure to pay (within 8 weeks) and not allow payment agreements to be set up (council tax dept do it!). Effectively, I have to find that money by 8 weeks which DOES mean food out my child’s mouth, probably no new clothes etc. If I don’t then they will ruin my credit rating (something that I NEED to be ok in order to be successful for all sorts of better paying jobs). Talk about pushing someone deeper into poverty?!?
I’ve contacted my local councillor. I’ll let you know what happens.