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Free childcare pledge fast-tracked

Working parents across England will be pleased to hear that plans to double the amount of free childcare available to them have been fast-tracked

 

Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to announce later that mums and dads of three and four-year-olds in some parts of England will be entitled to 30 free hours a week of from September 2016, a year earlier than previously planned.

As it stands, all three and four-year olds are entitled to 570 hours of free early education or childcare a year, which works out as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year.

The scheme was announced in the Childcare Bill in last week’s Queen’s Speech and speaking ahead of the announcement, David Cameron said he was “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”.

Ministers believe that up to 600,000 families will eventually benefit from the move.

The Government predicts that families will be able to save around £2,500 a year on top of the £2,500 they can already save from existing free childcare offers.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Employment minister Priti Patel said: “This is an important announcement showing that the Government is on the side of working families.

“Before the summer, we are actually going to start a consultation, which will involve all providers to look at the funding rates for these places.

“That is important, because we can only do this by working with the providers, with the childcare organisations, with nurseries as well, to get that balance between the fairness of the funding rates and the value for money for tax-payers”.

But the Pre-School Learning Alliance has warned the childcare system faces “meltdown” if the Government does not increase the amount it pays providers.

Chief executive Neil Leitch said: “We have long warned that the existing schemes are significantly underfunded, leaving providers and parents to make up the shortfall.

“That said, as with all things, 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.”

The Alliance has said that the total cost to the sector will be approximately £1.95 billion per year but funding at current rates amounts to £1.7 billion – a potential shortfall of £250 million.

Chris Muwanguzi, CEO, DAD.info said: “Whilst we welcome the doubling of free childcare to 30 hours, we would also ask that government works with nursery’s to ensure that these places are made available and that nurseries have the capacity and resources to deal with the increased demand.

“It’s good that working parents will have a little more flexibility and support financially, equally their children need to get the best quality childcare to give them the best possible start in life. “

For more information on help paying for childcare visit: www.gov.uk

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