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Child Care

Volume 459: debated on Thursday 3 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what funding is available to support child care for children (a) with disabilities and (b) without disabilities. (118859)

The Government are investing in a wide range of financial support for child care in England. We are investing some £3 billion each year in the delivery of free part-time nursery education so that all three and four-year-olds can benefit from 12.5 hours a week free early years provision, rising to 15 hours a week by 2010.

Further funding to support child care is also provided through the General Sure Start Grant (GSSG). This includes supporting child care for disabled children and children with special educational needs (SEN). The GSSG can be used to provide training to staff, enable early education and child care settings to make adaptations to premises and equipment, provide additional staff and support multi-agency working focused on the needs of individual children for example as developed by the Early Support Programme for disabled children and their parents.

Local authorities have the freedom to decide how much they wish to spend on activity related to disability and SEN within the GSSG based on their knowledge of the local market. In 2007-08, £664 million of revenue funding and £544 million of capital funding is available to local authorities through the GSSG. Local authorities now have a duty through the Childcare Act 2006 to secure sufficient child care provision in their area for all children with a specific focus on provision that is suitable for disabled children.

Further funding is available to parents through the child tax credit, and the working tax credit, which was introduced in April 2003. The child care element of the working tax credit is designed to help remove the child care barrier that often prevents people taking up or returning to work. It is available for meeting up to 80 per cent. of the cost of registered or approved child care to a maximum childcare cost of £175 a week for families who pay child care for one child and £300 a week for families who pay child care for two children or more. For parents with disabled children, additional funding to help with the costs of child care is provided through the disability living allowance, the carers allowance and the disability and severe disability elements of the child tax credit. A longer period of help is given to families for children with disability.

Child care can be subsidised in a variety of other ways including local authority subsidies, Jobcentre Plus New Deals, Care to Learn, Learner Support Funds and NHS child care allowances. The Department supports initiatives with sector organisations such as the National Portage Association and Kids, to raise awareness and change attitudes towards the delivery of services for disabled children. Parents of disabled children can also apply for direct payments from local authorities in some circumstances.