One of the main areas targeted by the Spring Budget was changes to childcare. Billed as a revolution in childcare, the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, said that he wanted to reform the childcare system to help more than a million women come back to work.
The 30-hours per week of funded childcare for eligible 3 to 4-year-olds in England will be extended to children from 9-months of age. This reform will be introduced in stages starting with the addition of 15-hours of free care for 2-year-olds from April 2024. The 15-hours will be extended to all children from 9-months from September 2024 before increasing to 30-hours from September 2025.
All schools will also be expected to offer breakfast and ‘wraparound’ clubs by September 2026 so all school-age parents can drop-off and collect their children between 8 am and 6 pm.
Universal credit provision on childcare is also being improved. This includes the government paying the upfront payment necessary to access subsidised childcare for any parents who are moving into work or want to increase their hours.
There will also be an increase in the maximum they can claim to £951 for one child and £1,630 for two children, an increase of almost 50%.
The Chancellor also announced an increase in the funding paid to nurseries providing free childcare by £204m from this September rising to £288m next year. The government will also change the minimum staff-to-child ratios from 1:4 to 1:5 for two-year-olds in England (the same as Scotland). The new ratios will remain optional.