Investment in childcare boosted by new resources and online tools
More nursery and early years places and spaces to be delivered, with an online childcare eligibility checker to give information about new support
Parents up and down the country can see for the first time from today (27 October 2023) exactly what additional childcare support they will be entitled to over the coming months and years thanks to the government’s largest ever investment in childcare.
The updated eligibility checker on childcarechoices.gov.uk is now live, and allows parents to access personalised information on the support available to them, including which of the new transformational childcare offers they will be eligible for depending on the age of their child and earnings.
The website will also give parents the opportunity to sign up for regular updates letting them know when they should take action to make sure they are getting the support they are entitled to. This includes when the new 15 free hours for two-year-olds shortly becomes available for sign-ups, with the offer beginning in April 2024.
This comes as the government rolls out the next stage of delivery of its childcare plan which is set to save working parents using 30 hours of childcare, up to £6,500 per year.
£100 million is being made available for local areas to support childcare settings in their areas to increase their physical space, anticipated to add thousands of new places across the country.
Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, said:
"No one should have to choose between having a career and having a family, so I’m determined that every parent who wants it should have access to the childcare they need.
"Flexibility is at the heart of our plans to transform childcare for families, whether it’s offering quality childcare out of school hours or making sure there are more early years places where they’re needed most.
"This is the largest investment in childcare in our history, so I encourage people with young children or those thinking about starting a family to visit the Childcare Choices website to find out what they’re eligible for."
Local authorities are also today receiving details of their allocation from the £289 million wraparound childcare fund, to make sure families of primary school children can access childcare between 8am and 6pm.
Funding is being distributed to all local authorities on the basis of anticipated need, plugging gaps in the existing market.
It will help deliver the government’s aim that by 2026, no matter where parents live, they should be able to access wraparound childcare for primary-age children in their local area.
This measure comes as the Department for Work and Pensions recently announced an increase to the money parents receiving Universal Credit can claim per month for childcare, which is now up to £951 for one child or £1,630 for two or more children.
Work and Pensions Secretary, Mel Stride, said:
"Boosting employment is key to growing our economy, and the extra money provided for parents on universal credit will give them the flexibility and security they need to find a job, support their children and reap the benefits of work.
"I encourage every parent to access this resource to see what help is available and to talk to one of the thousands of work coaches in our jobcentres who are there to help them find work or enhance their skills."
The childminder start-up grant scheme has also been confirmed to open for applications by Thursday 30 November 2023. This grant of £600 for those who choose to register with Ofsted and £1,200 for those who choose to register with a childminder agency will help to boost the numbers of childminders working to offer parents more flexible childcare.
As well as this investment, the Department for Education has also today published the response to the recent early years foundation stage (EYFS) consultation. The majority of proposed changes will go ahead, to boost the early years workforce and encourage more people to consider childcare as a rewarding career by removing unnecessary regulatory burdens.
For example, the government will now allow managers to decide whether students and apprentices can count in ratios where appropriate. This will empower managers and allow trainees to build more valuable experience so they can flourish in their early years career.
A small number of proposed changes that consultation responses suggested would not help achieve the government’s aim of removing unnecessary burdens will not proceed, with no changes to staff:child ratio requirements outside of core hours.
Combined, this work demonstrates the government’s continued commitment to delivering the record investment in childcare in a way that makes sure childcare is high-quality, affordable and fits around parents’ working lives.
This commitment and the government’s overall approach to childcare will be discussed at this year’s early years British Irish council. Minister Johnston will host the annual meeting which will see delegates discuss the topic of childcare and solutions to the challenges being faced across member administrations. The meeting will be attended by representatives from the UK government, Irish government, devolved governments and crown dependencies.