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Childcare: Update

Volume 632: debated on Monday 4 December 2017

Today the Government are launching a public consultation on their proposed approach to revising the eligibility criteria for the early education entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds in light of the roll out of Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is replacing a number of qualifying benefits for the two-year-old entitlement, including Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Income Support.

The early education entitlement for two-year-olds was introduced nationally in September 2013 and subsequently extended in September 2014 to include low income working families. We want it to continue to be the case that a wider group of less advantaged children can benefit from high quality early education.

Subject to the outcome of this consultation, we propose to introduce a net earned income threshold of £15,400 per annum for those in receipt of Universal Credit. This threshold would increase the number of children benefiting—around 8,000 more children taking up this entitlement once Universal Credit is fully rolled out and in steady state. We do not propose to change any of the other eligibility criteria for the two-year-old entitlement.

Two-year-olds do not lose their entitlement once it has started so no child who has commenced their entitlement would lose it as a result of the introduction of the new earnings threshold.

If, following the public consultation and subject to the will of the House, the Government decide to take forward their proposals, we expect the revised regulations to come into force in April 2018, in time for the summer term.

The ‘Eligibility for the free early education entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds under Universal Credit’ consultation will commence today and run for six weeks. The consultation document, containing full details of the proposals and inviting responses, will be published on the Department for Education’s website. Copies of the consultation document will also be placed in the House Libraries.