As a government we are already doing lots to help families with childcare because we know it is vital that it is more affordable, as well as supporting a child's development and preparing them for school.
The government already provides significant support to parents and carers.
• 15 hours of free childcare each week for all three and four year olds, worth around £2,500 a year, helping them to develop social skills and preparing them for school;
• 15 hours free childcare every week for two year olds from low income families, with a disability or special educational need, and those who are looked after or who have been adopted from care;
• Childcare Vouchers provided through some employers, allowing parents to save money by paying for childcare from their pre-tax salary;
• Help with up to 70% or 85% of childcare costs for people on low incomes through working tax credits or Universal Credit; and,
• Shared Parental Leave, giving parents the chance to share up to 50 weeks leave and up to 37 weeks parental pay in the first year following their child's birth or adoption.
Last year, we spent a record £5billion on this support, but we know that for some parents high childcare costs are still an issue. As parents, you will know how difficult families find weighing up the cost of returning to work or taking on more hours with the cost of childcare.
That's why our new childcare package will include the following;
• An additional 15 hours of free childcare for nearly 400,000 working parents of three and four year olds, saving eligible families, using the full 30 hours a total of around £5,000 per year. This will make it easier for parents to work and earn more in the years before their children start school. It will also provide a financial boost to working parents who already pay for childcare.
• More generous support for parents on Universal Credit, who can now claim up to 85% of childcare costs, up to a monthly limit of £646 for one child or £1108 for two or more children. This will make sure work pays for families on a low income
• Tax-Free Childcare which will be available to around 2 million households to help pay for childcare costs. For every £8 parents pay into an online account, the government will pay £2 - up to a maximum contribution of £2,000 per child each year, for children up to the age of 12
We have made a serious commitment to help working people, and through this extended offer we will help thousands more parents who want to return to work do so with ease and flexibility.
Parents will be eligible for 15 hours of additional free childcare if they need it for work and they earn the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum or living wage and less than £100,000 a year per parent.
The additional 15 hours free childcare for working parents of three- and four-year-olds will be available across England from September 2017.
A total of 5000 children from Wigan, Staffordshire, Swindon, Portsmouth, Northumberland, York, Newham and Hertfordshire will benefit from the early offer from this September. More generous support for parents on Universal Credit came into force from April 2016 and Tax-Free Childcare will be introduced in early 2017.
Hardworking parents have all sorts of shift patterns, so childcare needs to be more flexible as well as more affordable. We are currently in the process of setting out how we can achieve this.
Greater choice over the hours available to parents will help meet the demands of the 21st century, so they can balance raising their children with their working lives.
Inflexible hours, high costs and red tape are preventing these parents from registering their children with local nurseries and this is an area we are dedicated to combating and that is why we are consulting on enabling providers to offer the entitlement from 6am to 8pm, from the current 7am to 7pm.
Parents of children with disabled children, or children with special education needs are also eligible to claim the additional 15 hours. These parents should have the same opportunities as other parents via increased choice and access to high quality childcare. While the legal framework is clear that all eligible children must be able to take up a place under the existing and new entitlement, in practice we are hearing that the system does not always deliver for all children.
This is a complex issue, which we absolutely must address and have therefore dedicated a chapter in our consultation (details below), to hear your views on provision for children with SEND (Special Education Needs & Disability)
As part of early implementation of the additional 15 hours of free childcare for working parents of three and four year olds from September 2016, local authorities will be using the opportunity to test and showcase how childcare can be delivered in a way that improves access for children with special educational needs and disabilities.
You can find out more information about the 30 hours free childcare entitlement on this website www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-education
We are also seeking views on key elements of the operation and delivery of the 30 hours extended free entitlement for the working parents of 3- and 4-year olds through a public consultation, open until June 6. This includes how the entitlement will be delivered, and how it will meet and be responsive to the needs of working parents.
We are urging parents to offer us their views on how they would like it to work. This is your chance as parents to let us know what you want, what is best for your children, and what will make your working life easier and more flexible.
You can take part in the consultation here.