Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announces free child care for all under 5s in latest budget
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Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced big changes to free childcare in today’s Spring Budget announcement.
In eligible households, parents will be able to claim up to 30 hours of free childcare for all under-fives from the moment maternity leave ends.
Hunt told the Commons: “I today announce that in eligible households where all adults are working at least 16 hours, we will introduce 30 hours of free childcare not just for three- and four-year-olds, but for every single child over the age of nine months.
“The 30 hours offer will now start from the moment maternity or paternity leave ends. It’s a package worth on average £6,500 every year for a family with a two-year-old child using 35 hours of childcare every week and reduces their childcare costs by nearly 60 percent.
"Because it is such a large reform, we will introduce it in stages to ensure there is enough supply in the market.
“Working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free care from April 2024, helping around half a million parents.
“From September 2024, that 15 hours will be extended to all children from 9 months up, meaning a total of nearly one million parents will be eligible. And from September 2025 every single working parent of under 5s will have access to 30 hours free childcare per week.”
The news will be welcomed by working parents, who are currently facing staggering childcare costs.
Hunt acknowledged the high cost of childcare in the UK before announcing his new budget plans.
“We have one of the most expensive systems in the world,” he said.
“Almost half of non-working mothers said they would prefer to work if they could arrange suitable childcare.
“For many women, a career break becomes a career end. Our female participation rate is higher than average for OECD economies, but we trail top performers like Denmark and the Netherlands. If we matched Dutch levels of participation, there would be more than one million more women who want to work, in the labour force. And we can.”
For parents of slightly older children, the Chancellor also announced plans for all schools in England to offer wrap-around care on either side of the school day for children by September 2026.
“One-third of primary schools do not offer childcare at both ends of the school day, even though for many people a job requires availability throughout the working day,” Hunt said.
He added: “To address this, we will fund schools and local authorities to increase supply of wraparound care so all school-age parents can drop their children off between 8am and 6pm.
“Our ambition is that all schools will start to offer a wraparound offer, either on their own or in partnership with other schools, by September 2026.”
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