Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah has today (2 February 2016) announced funding to allow Hertfordshire to deliver 30 hours of free childcare for eligible parents of 3 and 4 year-olds - one year ahead of schedule.
The Government has already delivered 15 hours free childcare for parents of 3 and 4 year olds, and it was promised in the Conservative Manifesto that this would be doubled to 30 hours by 2017, with pilots taking place before then in certain areas.
When it was announced that pilots of the 30 hours free childcare would be held, Richard Harrington, MP for Watford, lobbied the Department of Education to ask that Watford be one of these pilots. In a letter to the Childcare Minister of July 2015, Richard said: “Childcare in Watford is expensive but high quality. Whilst unemployment is low here, there are less well-off areas where parents could take on more hours if they had reliable childcare for longer. It would be a huge benefit to parents and an interesting place for you to study if a pilot was held here before the national roll-out.”
As part of this campaign, Richard met with Cassio Pre School (pictured) to discuss how local childcare providers would be able to deliver the extension of hours.
Speaking about the news Richard said: “I am delighted that my campaign to get Hertfordshire parents 30 hours free childcare was successful. This pilot will really put money back in families’ pockets and help them to provide for their children.”
Hertfordshire providers’ and parents’ experiences will then be used to support the full rollout in 2017, with the aim of removing significant barriers to parents taking up their entitlement.
All 3- and 4-year-olds are already entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week, and this is also extended to the most disadvantaged 2-year-olds. Last year, more than 1 million 3- and 4-year-olds, and 157,000 2-year-olds benefited from this offer.
As part of this government’s commitment to helping hardworking people, we will be investing more than £1 billion extra per year by 2019 to 2020 to fund the extension of the free childcare entitlement.
The Department for Education will also be piloting a new contract with councils, and consulting on a fairer funding formula for the early years, to help ensure that local authorities are passing the money on to providers, and that providers are given a fair rate.
The additional 15 hours of free childcare will be available for families where both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone-parent family), and each parent earns the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum or living wage, and earns less than £100,000 a year.
The government will be testing out the new eligibility checking system, bringing all childcare offers together online.