The government’s plan to increase the amount of free childcare available to working parents will begin in eight areas this September, the Department for Education has announced.
York, Staffordshire, Swindon, Portsmouth, Wigan, Northumberland, Newham and Hertfordshire have been selected to participate in a pilot scheme which will allow parents of three and four year-old children to access 30 hours of free care per week. Originally announced as part of the Conservative Party’s 2015 general election manifesto, this will double the amount of childcare such parents can receive from 15 hours per week.
The government has pledged £13 million to help the eight local authorities fund the pilot scheme.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said that “rising childcare costs have been a barrier preventing parents and particularly mothers from working”. The scheme is part of the government’s efforts to “help thousands more parents who want to return to work to do so” she claimed.
While shadow childcare minister Jenny Chapman welcomed “any extra help for childcare”, the Labour MP insisted that the government has “a terrible record” on this issue.
She asked how the scheme would be funded, claiming that childcare costs have risen by as much as 30 per cent since 2010. The Conservative government “still has a half-a-billion black hole in their plans” even after “reducing eligibility by 200,000 families”, she continued.
“One in three working parents promised free childcare by David Cameron at the last election will now miss out because ministers are unable to add up properly.”
Childcare providers have also expressed doubts about the plan’s effectiveness. In January, The Family and Childcare Trust claimed the scheme was poorly planned and was unlikely to be adequately funded.