Childcare is the key issue for many parents, not just for under-fives, but for all children. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced in October that parents will be granted a new right to request wrap-around or holiday childcare at their school. Childcare providers will also be given the right to request the use of school sites outside school hours to provide this care.
Flexibility is key in the provision of childcare, for both school-age and pre-school children. Can the Minister assure my constituents that, as the Government extend childcare provision, they will allow for greater flexibility over things such as drop-off and pick-up times?
The autumn statement set out the record levels of funding available to deliver our pledge of 30 hours of free childcare. As working fathers, my hon. Friend and I know that it is not just about the money; it is about flexible childcare available when it is needed. We will be consulting in the new year on ways to deliver that.
Has anyone told Westminster City Council of the Government’s intention to increase choice in school-age childcare? The council has just announced an end to all funding for the play service, which provides its after-school care for primary school-age children. It offered this to schools and, the last time I asked, only one school had agreed to take on the service because of the pressure on school budgets. Is it not the case that, in places such as Westminster, it is essential that working parents have the opportunity of decent after-school childcare, but that that is in retreat, not in advance?
That is precisely the purpose behind the announcement that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made. Where schools cannot deliver wrap-around care themselves, they can work with private and voluntary providers to use their site to deliver that wrap-around care. This change will set a new expectation for schools to follow through on it.
Questions about childcare—wrap-around, flexible childcare and childcare during school holidays—are particularly opportune. Before the election in May, the Minister told us that Labour’s 25 hours of free childcare would cost £1.2 billion. The independent Institute for Public Policy Research has said that the Government’s 30 hours will cost £1.6 billion. Last week, the Chancellor told us that he was setting aside just over £600,000 for this, which leaves a shortfall of almost £1 billion annually. Will that come from quality, will it come from ratios or will it come from both?
It was impossible for the IPPR to know how much the Government’s policy would cost before it knew the eligibility criteria for the new entitlement. The Chancellor announced the eligibility criteria at the autumn statement and made it clear that there is record investment going into childcare—£1 billion in 2019-20. That is something we should all be proud of.