• Sunday, March 03, 2024

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Eligible parents can apply for free childcare from January

Britain’s Education Secretary Gillian Keegan arrives to the venue at the annual Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, northern England, on October 3, 2023. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

PEOPLE can apply for the free childcare scheme for working parents from 2 January, the government announced on Wednesday (29).

Eligible working parents can register between mid-January and the end of February to access 15 hours free childcare per week from April 2024.

In 2024-25, the government plans to invest over £400 million to deliver a significant increase in local authority hourly rates, ensuring sufficient availability of places as required across the country, a statement said.

National average hourly rates paid by the government will be £11.22 for under twos, £8.28 for two-year-olds, and £5.88 for three- and four-year-olds from April.

Additionally, funding will be accessible for new childminders commencing Thursday (30), either entering the profession or completing their registration on or after March 15, 2023. This includes those re-registering at least 12 months after the cancellation of a previous registration.

An amount of £600 will be provided for individuals opting to register with Ofsted, while those choosing to register with a childminder agency will receive £1,200.

“From April next year, eligible working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of government-funded childcare a week, making sure parents no longer have to choose between a career and a family,” said education secretary Gillian Keegan.

“I know the delivery of this transformation is no easy task, which is why I am pushing ahead with increased funding rates across the country and up to £1,200 for new childminders.”

Currently, over two million parents are getting support on Universal Credi. Many may now qualify for monthly support of up to £951 for one child and £1,630 for two or more children to help with childcare expenses.

Helen Donohoe, chief executive of Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), welcomed the launch of the start-up grants scheme, for new and returning childminders.

“We know that the ambitious plans for the expansion of early education and childcare will need to see growth right across our sector, and not least in the number of childminders,” she said.

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