Megan Jarvie, Head of Coram Family and Childcare, comments on the Budget 2023 announcement that free childcare will be expanded to one and two-year olds in England.
A package of new measures to help working families in England with the costs of childcare has been announced by the Chancellor in today’s Budget.
The current system which provides 30 free hours of childcare per week will be extended to cover all children aged nine months and above. The new policy will apply to households where both parents work and will be fully introduced by September 2025. This will be worth up to £6,500 per year for working families.
The Chancellor also announced that:
- The hourly rate paid to childcare providers who deliver free hours care will increase
- There will be a £600 incentive payment for people who sign up to be childminders (or £1,200 for those signing up through an agency)
- Families receiving Universal Credit will get childcare support paid upfront, instead of having to claim it back
In addition, childcare ratios in England will be relaxed, moving from one carer for every four children to 1:5 to align with Scotland.
In response to today’s announcement, Megan Jarvie, Head of Coram Family and Childcare, said: “Investment of this scale is great news for families struggling currently with childcare bills of over £14,000 a year for a one-year old and a game changing commitment to support families. The biggest help is directed at the youngest children, when costs are the highest and there is the least support available. The changes to Universal Credit will make a real difference to help middle- and low-income families move into and stay in work. Childcare is an excellent investment – it enables parents to work and boosts the outcomes of young children, particularly the most disadvantaged.
“However, in order for this offer to live up to parents’ expectations, it must be funded at a level that covers the costs of high-quality care and delivered in partnership with the early years sector . Many providers find the current level of funding too low and we are seeing growing childcare shortages across the country. We will be doing the sums on this in the coming days.
“We also need to make sure that childcare achieves its potential to narrow the achievement gap before children start school. Targeting support to children with working parents in higher income families puts this at risk, as it will mean higher children receiving more early education and childcare than lower income families.
“However, the decision to relax ratios is a move in the wrong direction – it does not put quality at the heart of delivery and is unpopular with parents and providers. Rather than fixing the problems in the childcare system – with recruitment and retention of professionals at forefront – it exacerbates them.”