30 hours free childcare launches

31 Aug 2017 11:49 AM

The government’s landmark offer for working parents of 30 hours of free childcare per week rolls out across the country today (Friday 1 September). 

Parents of three and four-year olds who have registered for a place will join the 15,000 families benefitting in the 12 areas of the country that introduced the offer early.

The offer should save families around £5,000 per year on childcare, helping them to balance their jobs and family lives, and around 390,000 working families are eligible to benefit. The latest evaluation shows 8 out of 10 childcare providers were willing and able to double their current 15 hours offer.

This offer is backed by the government’s record investment of £6 billion per year in childcare, which includes an extra £1 billion per year by 2020 to deliver the free entitlements.

It builds on the government’s Tax-Free Childcare offer already available to many families, which cuts childcare costs by up to £2,000 per year for each child under 12 years old.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said:

High quality childcare not only helps our children get the best start in life, it supports many parents who want or need to work.

For too long lots of families really struggled to manage the cost of childcare and that’s why we have delivered on our promise to provide 30 hours free – saving working families around £5,000 a year.

Alongside the support we are giving through Tax-Free Childcare and Universal Credit, it will make a real difference to families’ lives.

The 30 hours offer has been delivered early in several areas across the country and an independent evaluation which included a survey of providers and parents in eight of the councils that started the offer from last September found:

A second independent evaluation of the government’s early roll out programme published yesterday builds on those findings and shows:

The providers in the 12 areas across the country that implemented the offer early have helped to share examples of best practice for other providers to follow. This has been bolstered by the work of local authorities across the country in supporting their local early years sector to deliver the offer.

Kurstie, a working parent in Staffordshire – another of the Early Implementers – split her 30 hours for her four-year-old son between a preschool and a childminder. She said:

It has been the greatest gift a working parent can be given. Any working parent will know what a struggle it is trying to work and balance the bills, so 30 hours for me has been the best gift of the year.

Lesley Calvert, manager of Funfishers Preschool in York, one of the 8 areas to start delivering 30 hours one year early, said:

Delivering 30 hours has been a real success for us, and our parents have been able to go back to work or increase their hours without worrying about the cost of childcare.

For us, a big part of this has been working closely with our local council and in partnership with other providers in the area. I encourage other businesses to do the same to make it work as smoothly.

This landmark offer is backed by the government’s record investment of £6billion per year in the childcare early years sector. By 2019-20, we will be investing an extra £1billion per year to deliver the free entitlements, including over £300 million a year to increase our hourly funding rate to local authorities.

This investment has already helped us increase our total hourly funding rate to local authorities to a national average of £4.94. Recent research by Frontier Economics shows that our funding rates compare favourably with the average hourly cost of providing childcare, which it found to be £3.72.

Notes to editors

For media enquiries, interview bids and parent or provider case studies please contact the Department for Education press office on 020 7783 8300 / 0207 340 7488 / 0207 340 7691

The first eight Early Implementer areas were Hertfordshire, Newham, Northumberland, Portsmouth, Staffordshire, Swindon, Wigan and York, launching 30 hours in September 2016. Dorset, Leicestershire, North Yorkshire and Tower Hamlets joined the scheme in April 2017.

Evaluation from all 12 early roll out areas give a robust analysis of the programme to date, although there are limitations for generalising all findings to national roll out.

The evaluation, carried out by Frontier Economics, conducted in-depth interviews with parents and providers and surveyed all registered providers in the four areas that have been delivering the 30 hours offer under rollout conditions (Dorset, North Yorkshire, Leicestershire and Tower Hamlets). In Dorset, parents applied using the government’s online Childcare Service.

The Childcare Choices website provides information on the government’s childcare schemes and explains how parents can pre-register or apply. It also includes a childcare calculator to show eligible families how much they could receive.