I am pleased to announce today the launch of a wraparound childcare pilot scheme for UK armed forces families. This announcement represents another significant step towards the Government meeting their manifesto commitment to provide free wraparound childcare for forces families.
It is the latest in a series of measures which my Department has introduced with the aim of easing the unique burdens on service families. Our armed forces have a 24 hours a day, seven days a week commitment to their duties and meeting this manifesto pledge will not only provide them with the support they deserve, but also help to build the diverse workforce we need for a modernised UK Defence.
I am determined to make the armed forces a more modern, inclusive and family friendly employer, in order to improve the working environment for retention of all personnel but also to encourage more talented women to pursue long, and fulfilling careers in uniform.
This follows the introduction of flexible service last year, which allows—for the first time in the armed forces—personnel to flex their working arrangements to accommodate changes in personal circumstances.
By introducing these measures we plan to make life easier for service personnel and their families, who are required to be mobile and can be deployed at short notice. Wraparound childcare will help them to secure appropriate support when it is required, by covering early starts and late finishes for eligible working parents of children aged four to 11.
The first pilot sites of RAF High Wycombe and RAF Halton will see funding for before and after school care during term time from the start of the 2020 academic year. Further pilot sites at Catterick garrison and the Plymouth naval area will follow in January 2021.
Service personnel assigned to each of the pilot sites will be eligible to access the funding, regardless of the geographical location of their children within the UK. The few families located in Scotland but assigned to the first pilot sites will, therefore, begin in August.
The launch of this pilot comes amidst the wider return to education, following the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic. Service personnel from all of our armed forces have provided critical support to their colleagues in health and social care, often deployed away from home at short notice.
Their professionalism, versatility, and commitment make them the best armed forces in the world, and we are committed to honouring their service by providing them the best support possible.