Councils invited to step up to childcare challenge

26 Aug 15

Councils and other providers are being asked to come forward with “innovative and flexible” ideas on how they can deliver 30 hours of free childcare a week, which will take effect in September 2016.

The government has pledged to increase the average funding rates paid to providers, and a consultation on funding changes recently closed. It now wants the sector to offer ideas about delivery.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan said: “For too long, rising childcare costs have been a barrier to working parents and particularly mothers. This ‘One Nation’ government is on the side of hardworking people – that is why this time next year we’ll see the first families benefit from the government’s offer of 30 hours of free childcare for working parents.

“Today, we’re calling on providers to tell us how they can offer innovative, high-quality childcare that helps parents return to work while keeping more of their hard-earned money in their back pocket.”

According to Department for Education figures, the government spends £5bn on childcare, an increase of £1bn since 2010.

The 30-hour offer will provide the equivalent of 30 hours per week of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds and is worth £5,000 per child a year, the DfE said.

In addition, the 40% of two-year-olds from the 40% most disadvantaged backgrounds will be offered 15 hours of free childcare per week, worth £2,500 per child per year.

Responding to the announcement, children’s charity 4Children said childcare needed to be high quality if it was to enhance children’s development.

“That’s why it’s crucial that government works with the sector to understand the challenges that must be addressed in order for both children and families to make the greatest gains,” said chief executive Imelda Redmond.

“With the funding consultation now closed, we look forward to hearing the results which must ensure funding levels match the needs of providers to deliver high-quality childcare and give children the possible best start in life.”

Ministers also want to hear from parents on how the childcare offer will affect them and has teamed up with Facebook to hear from families who might not usually engage with government.

Of 2,000 parents already surveyed, more than 80% said they would take up the 30-hour offer if it were available now.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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