Government to double free childcare offer

1 Jun 15

Prime Minister David Cameron is bringing forward plans to double free childcare offered to working parents from 15 hours to 30 hours per week and pledged to review funding for the scheme before the summer.

The rollout is expected to start a year earlier than planned, with pilots in some areas offering 30 hours worth of free places from September 2016.

Cameron will today announce the Childcare Bill, which is expected to help up to 600,000 families of three and four-year-olds and save parents £5,000 a year, including the £2,500 they can already save from existing free childcare offers.

The prime minister is also committing to increase the average childcare funding rates paid to providers for each free place, with the Department for Education set to begin a review before summer.

A new government taskforce, headed by employment minister Priti Patel, will take the plans forward.

‘My message is clear. This government is on the side of working people – helping them get on and supporting them at every stage of life,’ Cameron said.

‘That is exactly why we are pressing ahead with these reforms - so that not a moment is lost in getting on with the task - going further than ever before to help with childcare costs, helping hardworking families and giving people the opportunity to get into work.’

Patel added that the government was working towards improving ‘the affordability and accessibility of childcare for working families’.

‘Having the right childcare in place will mean more parents can have genuine choice, security and peace of mind when it comes to being able to support their family,’ she said.

In their election manifesto, the Conservatives said his government would make up to 9 million extra hours of childcare a week available, allowing parents to work an extra 78 days a year without any childcare costs by September 2017.

The Childcare Bill, which applies only to England, is being introduced to Parliament tomorrow.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, welcomed news that the government would be launching a formal review into childcare funding rates this year.

But he added: ‘The devil is in the detail. It is vital that this review is full, thorough and genuinely takes the views and experiences of early years providers into account. Given that the childcare extension plans have been costed at just £350m a year – a figure that our research suggests is around a quarter of what is actually needed – we are concerned that the government is still significantly underestimating the scale of the existing funding shortfall.’

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said quality was as important as quantity and hoped that promised funding review would ensure that nurseries are able to offer the provision that children deserve.

  • Judith Ugwumadu

    Judith Ugwumadu joined Public Finance International and Public Finance online as a reporter after stints at Financial Adviser, Global Security Finance and The Sunday Express. Currently, she writes about public finance, public services and economics.

    Follow her on @JudithUgwumadu_

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