Budget: Jeremy Hunt expected to splash £4bn on childcare expansion
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to spend £4bn on childcare expansion for one and two-year-olds in today’s Budget as part of a drive to get Brits into work and boost growth.
Ministers are set to provide an extra 30 free hours a week to parents of toddlers and to raise cash for the existing childcare programme by £288m by 2024-25, according to the Guardian.
Hunt is planning to up the hourly rate paid to childcare providers by the government to deliver their existing 30 hours, the paper reported, which is a key demand from the sector.
Local authorities are also set to receive funding for wraparound provision in schools, from September 2024, in a bid to supercede Labour’s offer on childcare expansion ahead of the election.
The Treasury said it would not comment on speculation ahead of the budget – but did not deny any of the Guardian’s reporting when asked by City A.M.
Government has faced increasing pressure from MPs, businesses and voters to address the issue of childcare, with a coalition of business groups from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) backing a move.
Pressure group Pregnant Then Screwed founder Joeli Brearley said: “Childcare and early years education has been neglected by this government with devastating consequences for children and parents.
“This is an issue for the whole of society. It contributes to the skills gap, inhibits economic growth, and ensures only the very wealthy can access early years education, thereby entrenching inequality.”
And Zoe Haimovitch, from HR firm HiBob, said: “The prediction that the budget will expand free childcare to one and two-year-olds is welcomed news to working mothers.
“The UK’s childcare system is the most unaffordable in the developing world. It’s an issue that’s not only impacting families and businesses but the overall economy.”
She added: “If today’s budget does deliver on the promise of additional childcare support, the impact will be enormous. Childcare has been over-looked for far too long.”
But the Early Years Alliance warned relaxing staff-child ratios risked “compromising” the safety and quality of childcare.
Labour’s Rachel Reeves said the budget was a chance “for the government to get us off their path of managed decline.
“It’s a chance for them to recognise the huge promise and potential of Britain and get us growing again.”
Hunt has pledged his budget will deliver growth, and is expected to say in his speech that this will be: “Not just growth from emerging out of a downturn.
“But long term, sustainable, healthy growth that pays for our NHS and schools, finds good jobs for young people, provides a safety net for older people.”