Free childcare: How we are tackling the cost of childcare

UK Government Invests in Childcare

England offers top-notch childcare services, with 96% of early education centers receiving excellent ratings from Ofsted. However, we understand that childcare costs are a significant burden for working families. That’s why we’re making the largest-ever investment by a UK government in childcare, increasing our annual spending from approximately £4 billion to around £8 billion in the coming years.

Starting September 2025, working parents can access 30 hours of free childcare each week for 38 weeks a year, from when their child is nine months old until they start school.

When does the free 30-hour childcare begin?

Starting in stages, more help with childcare is coming for parents who work. In April 2024, parents with two-year-olds can get 15 hours of free childcare. Then, from September 2024, this 15-hour offer will start from when a baby is nine months old. And by September 2025, all working parents with children aged nine months or older can get 30 hours of free childcare each week until their child starts school. You can use these hours either during school terms (38 weeks) or spread them out over the whole year (52 weeks), depending on your childcare provider.

This won’t be available until 2025 because it’s a significant expansion that will take a while to set up and make available to everyone.

They’re doing it step by step to give childminders and nurseries time to get ready, so there are enough places for all the kids who need them.

The government is helping by running a campaign to find more staff, offering new ways for them to learn, like apprenticeships, and changing the rules for nurseries so they can be more flexible without sacrificing safety or quality.

Nurseries and childminders are getting more money from the government to help them with their costs. This money, which adds up to £204 million, is part of the government’s plan to invest a lot in childcare.

Every part of the country will get some of this money, and childcare places can use it to make things like paying staff, training, and bills easier.

Starting from September, the amount of money nurseries get for each child they look after will go up. For three and four-year-olds, it will go from about £5.29 to about £5.62, and for two-year-olds, it will go from about £6.00 to about £7.95.

From January 2024, all local councils will start getting a part of £289 million to help them with this plan. By September 2024, parents should have more options for care for their children before and after school.

Childcare costs will be lower because nurseries can’t charge extra fees for the free hours they offer, and this won’t change with the expansion. Some providers might ask for extra money for things like meals, and you can learn more on the Childcare Choices website. Plus, parents won’t have to pay for as many hours in the future.

Free childcare is available to parents with jobs who make more than £8,670 (starting April 2023) but less than £100,000 per year. If you’re in a couple, both of you need to earn at least £8,670, and neither of you can earn more than £100,000 for the rules to apply.

Who is eligible for free childcare now?

3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours per week of free childcare or early education, rising to 30 hours for working families, and 15 hours for disadvantaged two-year-olds, over 38 weeks of the year.

Starting in June 2023, parents who receive Universal Credit will get more help with childcare expenses. The amount they can get to cover these costs will increase. For one child, it will go up from £646 per month to £951, and for two children, it will rise from £1,108 to £1,630.

Additionally, parents will be able to receive support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to pay for childcare in advance. This will make it easier for them to find a job or work more hours. It basically means parents won’t have to worry about paying for childcare before they get their Universal Credit payment.

The government is giving more money to local schools and councils to help parents with childcare

This means that parents of school-age kids can find childcare from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening. This could include activities like breakfast clubs and after-school clubs. The money, which is up to £289 million, will help schools try out different ways to offer more childcare, like working with private providers or other schools. They plan to start this in September 2024, and they hope that by September 2026, all parents will be able to find this kind of childcare.

Parents can also get some money to help with childcare costs. They can get up to £500 every three months (which adds up to £2,000 a year) for each child. If a child has a disability, parents can get up to £1,000 every three months (which is up to £4,000 a year) with Tax-Free Childcare.

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