In the upcoming months, eight authorities will share £13m to test out the 30-hours free childcare scheme. They’ll be responsible for electing parents eligible for the funding to take part in the trial. To be eligible, parents must work more than 16 hours a week earning the minimum or living wage and making up to a maximum of £100,000 per parent.
Furthermore, in a bid to make it easier for nurseries to offer places to children with disabilities and special educational needs, 25 local authorities across 6 regional areas will share £4m to work as ‘Early Innovators’ to locate specific issues with the scheme.
The government have also begun testing out an online eligibility checker – which will make it easier on nurseries to carry out the essential checks on parents.
Chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, Neil Leitch, said: ‘Given how little research has been done on the potential impact of the 30-hours offer to date, it’s important that these pilots are used effectively to gain a better understanding of how the scheme is likely to work in practice.’
Education secretary, Nicky Morgan stated: ‘For too long, rising childcare costs have been a barrier preventing parents and particularly mothers from working.’
‘We have made a commitment to help working people, and through this extended offer, we will help thousands more parents who want to return to work to do so.’
DfE data states that the parents of 3 and 4-year-olds are currently using, on average, 18 hours of childcare a week; meaning that a move from 15 funded-hours to 30 is going to significantly impact settings and their ability to remain open due to financial restraints. The importance now is that the Government recognise what works and what doesn’t, to ensure that the scheme is deliverable.
25 Early Innovator areas:
- Cheshire West & Chester
- Nottingham City
South & South East
- West Sussex
- East Sussex
- Brighton & Hove
London & East
- Kingston & Richmond
- Barking & Dagenham
- Islington, Ealing
North East & Yorkshire and the Humber
- East Riding
- North Yorkshire