Today I am publishing “Next Steps for Nursery Milk”—a public consultation on the measures by which, through the nursery milk scheme, we can secure the most effective delivery, to all children under the age of five, of free milk in their childcare setting.
The nursery milk scheme has been running since the 1940s. The scheme currently funds free milk for around 1.5 million children under five-year-olds in 55,000 childcare settings throughout Great Britain. The scheme will continue.
In recent years, the prices claimed for milk purchased under the scheme have risen significantly, with a corresponding increase in the total cost of the scheme. The purpose of this consultation is therefore to explore three different options for reforming the operation of the scheme, looking at where we can make it more efficient as well as improving its value for money, while ensuring that all children under five attending a childcare setting for more than two hours a day continue to receive free milk.
Nursery milk is a universal benefit, meaning that childcare settings can claim the cost of milk provided to any child, regardless of the child’s home circumstances. We have ensured that all the options explored in the consultation ensure that the scheme will continue as a universal benefit.
In parallel with the public consultation, we are asking all childcare providers currently registered with the scheme to complete a simple survey about how the scheme works for them now and how potential changes might affect them and the children they care for.
We will publish a formal response to the consultation. To make any significant changes to the operation of the nursery milk scheme in Great Britain, we will, with the approval of Parliament, need to change the regulations governing it. New guidance will then be made available to all local authorities and childcare providers registered with the scheme, well in advance of any changes coming into effect.
“Next Steps for Nursery Milk” has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.