In this article, we talk through our payment terms in more detail, why we charge what we charge when we do and what happens when and if you cannot pay your fees for the services we provide
We understand that managing your finances can be tough and that childcare, in London, can be expensive. We will always do what we can to help you manage your payments to our schools and services but if we feel that we've run out of road, and that we have already provided programmes to help you restructure your debts to us, we feel we need to have a fall back plan that secures the fees for the school as the failure to pay fees unfairly prejudices the teachers, the hard work that they deliver and the value they provide for you and your children. This policy outlines our approach to debt management and then, as a final stage, recovery.
Our Payment Terms
Some schools charge on the first of the month for the month of care delivered, and other schools charge a term ahead to cover the 4 months of care delivered. As per our clause 7 of our terms and conditions, we charge fees on the first of the month, the month before your childcare is delivered i.e. you pay on the 1st of Feb for March's childcare, and a full month's fees as a deposit. We do so for two reasons:
- The deposit is held on account as surety of your place and is only ever drawn down should you be in arrears or fail to pay your fees
- Your advanced fee payments provide the school's management with the security to confirm staff shifts ahead of time so that we can plan effectively for our allocation of resource against confirmed numbers of children
If you're planning to start immediately, this can lead to an overloading of payments - a month's fee as a deposit, the fees that fall due in the month that you're starting and the subsequent month's fees that you are required to pay down on the first of the month just gone. That can be a fairly hefty bill to pay for many families and in such situations the management may, at its sole discretion, structure a payments plan to see the deposit paid down over a 3-6 month period.
How we collect fees
As per Clause 7.8 of our terms and conditions, we collect payments via GoCardless, a direct debit service which integrates with our accounting package, Xero. You will, during onboarding, be issued an invitation to join the Direct Debit service to ensure that our administration and collection of payments is smooth and that we're focussed on doing what we need to: educating and caring for your children. Having to chase payments creates administrative stress for the school management teams and then workload for our finance department, which, in turn, creates additional costs for us to manage. So, in the interests of efficiency, speed, clarity and transparency, we do insist that our payments are collecting via Direct Debit, based on the itemised invoices that we submit to you via email on the first of the month.
Debt Recovery Procedure
If you fall behind in your payments, we will follow the below 3 stage process for recovery:
Stage 1 - Fist week of debt - Call up
After the first week of late payment, the school management teams will be calling you to both call in the payment (typically over the phone or to remind you to pay the outstanding by close of play on the day) and to reinstitute the direct debit mandate that should have automatically secured payment on the first of the month. If this is both reinstituted and the fees recovered after this call, we're good.
Stage 2 - Payment restructure Meeting
If payment hasn't been received by the end of week 2, we will be calling you in for a formal meeting to talk through what we can do to help you repay what is owed. This is solely at the discretion of the management team and finance team, who will hold such discussions with you via online conference and / or in person (with the school management teams). What we're trying to work to here is a pathway to recover the debt over a set and specific period of time with a maximum cap of 3 months. You will be formally notified that your deposit with us is in jeopardy and that if you fail to follow by its terms, clause 7.10.3 will be put into immediate effect.
Stage 3 - Suspension of Service
If by the end of the first month of you being in arrears we're unable to recover the debts owed to us either through proactive engagement on our part or because you are failing to adhere to the terms set out in your repayment plan, we will have no choice but to institute clause 7.10.3 (suspension of services) and announce to the staff team that you will be refused entry to the school until those debts are cleared. Your deposit will be drawn down in full to repay the fees owed for the period outstanding, which will need to be repaid should you wish to restart your care with us. During this stage you will be advised that any outstanding fees from your arrears will need to be paid by week 6 of your arrears or stage 4 will be instituted
Stage 4 - Debt Recovery
Should any outstanding fees fall due after your deposit has been drawn down and should we not receive redemption payment in full from you by week 6-8 of your arrears, we will engage our debt recovery partners, Frontline Services, to secure the balance. When we formally instruct Frontline services, the process is no longer under our control.
At each stage, parents will be issued a formal notification via email that outlines the specifics of the stage of the debt recovery process they are in, the timeframes they need to adhere by and the next stage that may be instituted should they fall in breach of those terms. These communications can be issued by either the finance or school management teams and will ensure that all parties are in copy.