The Department for Work and Pensions has announced a new boost that is to be the first step in the largest ever expansion of childcare.
Thanks to new support through Universal Credit, low-income families will be able to access increased childcare support that is worth a total of £900 million. This will come at the end of June and will be complimented by a move that will see the government helping eligible parents to cover the costs of the first month of childcare when they enter work, or significantly increase their hours.
Mel Stride, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:
“These changes will help thousands of parents progress their career without compromising the quality of the care that their children receive.
“By helping more parents to re-enter and progress in work, we will be able to cut inactivity and help grow the economy.”
This package will ensure that people around the country consider childcare to be a valuable and rewarding career, whilst also supporting parents. A consultation is also being launched by the Department for Education, to remove barriers to the childcare sector for the workforce and as a result of extensive engagement with the sector to establish how staff can be supported.
Claire Coutinho, Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, said:
“We are supporting families with the largest ever expansion of free childcare, making sure that places will be available for parents who need them. This will save a working parent using 30 hours a week an average of £6,500.
“We have already announced plans to boost the amount government pays childcare providers, and now we’re knocking down barriers to recruiting and retaining the talented staff that provide such wonderful care for our children.”
Representing a huge part of the government’s plans to reduce economic activity, the announcement will come as part of the government’s wider investment of £3.5 billion for helping people into work to grow the economy.
The Local Government Association has responded to the announcement, with Cllr Louise Gittins, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, saying:
“Access to childcare is vital for all families, especially for those on the lowest incomes, the most disadvantaged children, women and single-parent families.
“We are pleased that the Government has moved to increase Universal Credit’s maximum childcare payment, which is something the LGA has long called for, and are also glad action is being taken around recruitment and retention, with councils concerned about provider closures, but this action is needed now.
“However, these proposed changed will have to be managed carefully to ensure that a focus on high-quality education, alongside the focus on childcare, remains. We await further information regarding the rollout of the expanded childcare offer and funding attached to it.”