30 Hours Free Childcare | A Parent’s guide to the new government scheme

What’s it all about?

Currently, all 3 & 4 year olds in England are entitled to receive 570 hours of free early years education each year – this is known as the 15 hour, 38 week “universal” offer. The entitlement usually kicks in at the beginning of the school term after a child reaches their third birthday. From September 2017, this entitlement is doubled to 1,140 free hours annually for some working families. This new offer is known as the 30 hours free childcare scheme.

Although the Government insists on talking in free hours, rather than pounds sterling, this basically equates to about £2,000+ a year, per child, in extra help towards childcare costs.

Who will be eligible?

To qualify for the full 30 hours of free childcare, each parent (or the sole parent in a single parent family) will need to earn, on average, the equivalent of 16 hours at the national minimum or living wage per week, and no more than £100,000 per year. A family with an annual household income of £199,998 would be eligible if each parent earns just under £100,000. Self-employed parents and parents on zero-hours contracts will be eligible if they meet the average earnings threshold. Families may also be eligible if one parent is working and the other is temporarily away from the workplace on maternity for example, or if the other parent has substantial caring responsibilities or if one parent is disabled (based on receipt of specific benefits).

The easiest way to find out whether you’re eligible is via Childcare Choices at www.childcarechoices.gov.uk.

How does this affect my nursery?

Alderley Day Nursery is committed to offering the 30 hours free childcare. But not all nurseries will be. Childcare providers do not have to offer the funded hours and many are worried that if they offer the 30 hours, they will make huge financial losses as the money the Government gives to providers to pay for this free childcare often doesn’t cover the cost of delivering it. To make it work, childcare providers need to consider ways to fill the funding gap and this might be by raising fees, or charging more for additional services, to ensure they can still provide a quality service.

What can I do now?

The first thing is to check your eligibility. Secondly, speak to your childcare provider to determine whether they will be offering the 30 hours. The Government estimates that around 390,000 children are eligible for the full 30 hours so demand for nursery places will be high, and you know what they say about the early bird…

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