Chancellor vows 30 hours free childcare for all kids over nine months
‘It’s no use having more free hours if you can’t access them’: Keir Starmer swipes at Jeremy Hunt’s multi-billion pound expansion in state-funded childcare after Chancellor promises 30 free hours a week for all kids aged nine months and over
- Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announces multi-billion pound expansion in childcare
- Parents to get up to 30 free hours a week for all children aged over nine months
- Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says there aren’t enough nursery places available
Sir Keir Starmer today questioned whether Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s multi-billion pound expansion of free childcare would actually help parents.
The Labour leader, responding to Mr Hunt’s Budget, told MPs it was ‘no use’ offering more free hours of childcare if there were not enough nursery places available.
In one of his flagship announcements this afternoon, the Chancellor had outlined how parents in England will be promised up to 30 hours a week of free childcare for all infants over the age of nine months.
This is currently only available for children aged three- or four-years-old.
Mr Hunt boasted the package would be worth an average £6,500 each year for a family with a two-year-old child using 35 hours of childcare every week.
But Labour warned the changes would be impossible to implement because there are not enough childcare places available.
Parents in England are being promised up to 30 hours a week of free childcare for all infants over the age of nine months
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt boasted the package would be worth an average £6,500 each year for a family with a two-year-old child using 35 hours of childcare every week
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned the changes would be impossible to implement because there are not enough childcare places available
‘Of course more money in the system is obviously a good thing,’ Sir Keir told the House of Commons after the Budget announcement.
‘But we have seen the Tories expand so-called free hours before and as parents up and down the country know, it’s no use having more free hours if you can’t access them.
‘And it pushes up the costs for parents outside the offer. That’s what we’ve seen before.’
The Chancellor’s expansion of free childcare will be phased in from April next year when working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare.
Then, from September next year, 15 hours of free care will be extended to all children aged nine months and above.
And, from September 2025, which will be after the next general election, every working parent of under-fives will have access to 30 hours free childcare per week.
‘I don’t want any parent with a child under five to be prevented from working, if they want to, because it is damaging to our economy and unfair, mainly to women,’ Mr Hunt told MPs.
The Chancellor expressed his hope the expansion of free childcare will ‘transform the lives of thousands of women and build a childcare system comparable to the best’.
The expansion of free hours was part of a package of childcare changes announced by Mr Hunt, which will cost up to £5.3billion by 2027-28.
The Chancellor also confirmed Universal Credit claimants will now be paid childcare support up front when moving into work or increasing their hours, rather than being paid in arrears.
‘Many remain out of work because they cannot afford the upfront payment necessary to access subsidised childcare,’ Mr Hunt said.
‘So for any parents who are moving into work or wants to increase their hours, we will pay their childcare costs upfront.’
The Chancellor also announced an increase in the maximum amount parents on Universal Credit can receive in childcare support.
This had previously been frozen at £646-a-month per child but will now rise to £951 for one child and £1,630 for two children.
In a further measure, Mr Hunt told MPs that it was the Government’s ‘ambition’ that all schools will start to offer ‘wraparound care’ – such as breakfast clubs – by September 2026.
This will mean all school-age parents can drop their children off between 8 am and 6 pm.
‘One third of primary schools do not offer childcare at both ends of the school day, even though for many people a job requires availability throughout the working day,’ the Chancellor said.
Responding to Mr Hunt’s Budget, Rachelle Earwaker, senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: ‘This Budget has had a strong focus on boosting employment, and expanding free childcare to very young children and paying childcare costs up front for those on Universal Credit fixes some major problems for many working parents.
‘To meet these aspirations it’s vital that the funding given will match the cost.
‘More fundamental reform may be needed to make childcare affordable and available where it is needed, and many of those who have spent this winter making impossible choices between eating hot meals and heating their homes will be wondering if he has really done enough to give them a secure foundation.’
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