Working parents can look forward to 15 hours of additional free childcare each week as soon as next year, the Prime Minister will say today.
David Cameron will announce that the government is bringing forward its plans to increase free childcare for working parents, from 15 hours to 30 hours per week.
On the campaign trail, the Tories had promised to double provisions for free childcare for all working parents of three and four-year-olds. Today, the Prime Minister will say that a childcare bill will be introduced in the House of Commons tomorrow, with the intent of a pilot programme offering free nursery places by September 2016. A Number 10 spokesperson said that the government wants the provisions to be in place nationally by the end of 2017.
The government says that the free places will be available to up to 600,000 families and worth about £5,000 a year, or twice as much as the £2,500 they currently save from existing free childcare offers. The new initiative is expected to cost the Treasury £350m per year.
Cameron will also say today that he is committed to increasing government funding paid to childcare providers for each free place. According to the National Day Nurseries Association, the government currently underpays providers, on average, £800 per child per year less than the actual cost of caring for that child.
The Prime Minister will say that the education department will begin reviewing the funding scheme this summer.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) welcomed the announcements, with its deputy director-general Katja Hall saying: “Increasing free childcare provision is an important step to enabling parents to pursue their careers, and to allowing businesses to retain skilled and talented employees.”
But Hall added that the business group would like to see further expansion of childcare subsidies in the years ahead, saying: “In time we would like to see the gap closed between the end of maternity leave and the start of free provision.”
WHO WILL QUALIFY FOR FREE CHILDCARE?
■ The government’s new childcare bill is expected to double the amount of free childcare available for working parents of three and four-year-olds to 30 hours a week during term-time.
■ Number 10 says that the benefits will only be able to be claimed by two-parent households in which both parents are working, or in single-parent households where the lone parent is in work. Based on those requirements, the government estimates about 600,000 families in England will qualify.
■ Based on the average cost of childcare, the government says that the new scheme will allow qualifying families to save about £5,000 per year. In reality, the savings year-on-year will amount to £2,500, because working parents are already saving £2,500 on average under the 15-hour-per-week provision.
■ The proposals build upon legislation passed by the last government, which increased funding from 12.5 hours per week to 15 hours a week for the parents of three and four-year olds.
■ The last government also introduced new provisions for two-year-olds from low-earning households, giving their parents 15 hours a week of free childcare. The new childcare bill is not expected to expand this means-tested programme.