On 1 September 2017, 30 hours of free childcare for working parents of three and four-year-olds went live nationally in England, saving families up to £5,000 per year per child. Alongside the childcare support the Government provide through tax-free childcare and universal credit, this additional free childcare is easing working families’ budgets, helping them to balance the cost of childcare with work.
The Government investment programme will deliver a record £6 billion per year in childcare by 2020, which includes an extra £1 billion per year to deliver the free entitlements. In addition, a further £100 million in capital funding has been committed to help providers create additional 30 hours places.
More than 200,000 30 hours codes have been issued to eligible parents wishing to take up a place this autumn, which exceeds our target for this term. These families join the existing 15,000 families who are already benefiting from 30 hours’ free childcare in the 12 early delivery areas.
An independent evaluation of four of these early delivery areas, published on 31 August, found that 30 hours incentivised many parents to increase their working hours or move into work, and parents were overwhelmingly positive about the offer. The report can be found here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/early-rollout-of-30-hours-free-childcare-evaluation. These findings build on the evaluation of the first eight delivery areas, which found that 23% of mothers and around one in 10 fathers are working more as a result. The evaluation also shows that more than three quarters of parents reported greater flexibility in their working life as a result of 30 hours, enabling them to spend more time together at home with their children, reducing stress and improving family finances. Importantly, the report found that more than eight out of 10 childcare providers who are offering the existing 15 hours entitlements also went on to offer 30 hours. This demonstrates that the sector has responded very positively to the additional demand for childcare places from working families.
During the autumn, I will be closely monitoring delivery to ensure continued improvements to the offer for parents and providers. The Childcare Choices website has now received over 1 million visits since launching in March, and the Department for Education will continue to work with local authorities to ensure parents have high-quality information about accessing the offer.
I will continue to work closely with Her Majesty’s Treasury Ministers to ensure that parents are able to access the HMRC-run childcare service smoothly. The majority of parents have successfully applied using the childcare service. Some parents experienced difficulties accessing the service through the system by the 31 August application deadline but those parents who are eligible, and applied before the deadline, will have a code to allow them to access our 30 hours’ free childcare.