In a significant step towards assisting parents, the government has introduced an updated eligibility checker on childcarechoices.gov.uk effective from October 27. This initiative provides comprehensive information about childcare support, enabling parents to assess available assistance, including innovative childcare offerings tailored to their child’s age and earnings.
The live eligibility checker allows parents to receive regular updates, ensuring they are well informed about the support options, such as the new 15 free hours for two-year-olds launching in April 2024.
As the government progresses with the next phase of its childcare plan, working parents stand to save up to £6,500 annually when utilising 30 hours of childcare, according to a press release from the Department for Education.
Additionally, the government has allocated £100 million to local areas, aiming to enhance childcare settings and potentially create thousands of new childcare places nationwide.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has emphasised the importance of accessible childcare, highlighting the government’s commitment to offering quality childcare outside school hours and increasing early years places where needed.
She said, “No one should have to choose between having a career and having a family, so I’m determined that every parent who wants it should have access to the childcare they need.
“Flexibility is at the heart of our plans to transform childcare for families, whether it’s offering quality childcare out of school hours or making sure there are more early years places where they’re needed most.
“This is the largest investment in childcare in our history, so I encourage people with young children or those thinking about starting a family to visit the Childcare Choices website to find out what they’re eligible for.”
The government’s efforts also extend to providing funding to local authorities through the £289 million wraparound childcare fund, ensuring primary school children have access to childcare between 8am and 6pm.
Funds are being allocated to local authorities based on anticipated requirements, filling gaps in the current market.
This initiative aligns with the government’s goal to ensure universal access to wraparound childcare for primary-age children across all regions by 2026, regardless of where parents live.
This measure comes as the Department for Work and Pensions has increased the money that parents on Universal Credit can claim for childcare, reaching up to £951 for one child or £1,630 for two or more children per month.
Work and Pensions Secretary, Mel Stride, stressed on the importance of employment growth for economic development.
He highlighted the additional financial support offered to parents on Universal Credit, providing them with the necessary flexibility and stability to secure employment, support their children, and enjoy the advantages of working.
He said, “I encourage every parent to access this resource to see what help is available and to talk to one of the thousands of Work Coaches in our Jobcentres who are there to help them find work or enhance their skills.”
Moreover, the childminder start-up grant scheme is also set to open for applications by November 30, 2023. This financial grant, amounting to £600 for individuals registering with Ofsted and £1,200 for those registering with a childminder agency, aims to increase the number of childminders.
The initiative intends to enhance the availability of flexible childcare options for parents.
The Department for Education has also released the results of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) consultation.
Most proposed changes, aimed at bolstering the early years workforce and encouraging more individuals to pursue childcare careers, will go ahead.
One notable change allows managers to determine whether students and apprentices can be counted in ratios, enhancing their experience, and providing an opportunity for them to flourish in their early years career.
A few proposed changes deemed unhelpful by consultation responses will not be implemented, maintaining staff:child ratio requirements outside core hours.
This effort underscores the government’s commitment to quality, affordable childcare aligned with parents’ work schedules to foster a supportive environment for families across the UK and to empower parents in their professional and family lives.
Discussions on childcare strategies will occur at this year’s Early Years British Irish Council meeting featuring representatives from the UK government, Irish Government, Devolved Governments and Crown Dependencies.