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Providers urged to be first to offer 30 hours' free childcare a week

Published 26/08/2015

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is asking childcare providers and councils to come forward with ideas of how they would deliver the new offer on childcare
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is asking childcare providers and councils to come forward with ideas of how they would deliver the new offer on childcare

Childcare providers are being asked to come forward to be the first in the country to offer 30 hours of free childcare a week.

The move to double the provision is being rolled out to parents in September 2016 - a year earlier than planned.

As part of the Government's One Nation plans, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is asking childcare providers and councils to come forward with ideas of how they would deliver the new offer.

She is also asking parents across the country how the extra hours will help them.

New figures show the vast majority of working parents - more than 80% - would take up the extended offer of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds if it were available now.

Ms Morgan, who will be speaking to Rolls-Royce employees about how the new offer could work for them, said: "For too long, rising childcare costs have been a barrier to working parents, and particularly mothers.

"This One Nation Government is on the side of hard-working people - that is why this time next year we'll see the first families benefit from the Government's offer of 30 hours of free childcare for working parents.

"Today, we're calling on providers to tell us how they can offer innovative, high-quality childcare that helps parents return to work while keeping more of their hard-earned money in their back pocket."

The Government is also reaching out to parents and employers to hear how plans to double the number of free hours for three- and four-year-olds will take pressure off household budgets and enable parents to work, if they want to do so.

In order to find out how the plans will affect households, the Department for Education (DfE) has joined forces with Facebook to reach as many parents as possible, and in particular those who would not normally respond to a Government survey.

More than 2,000 parents have already contributed, with three-quarters responding to a DfE survey saying they would take up the offer of 30 hours' free childcare if it were available now.

Childcare minister Sam Gyimah will be joining the Education Secretary on the visit to Rolls-Royce in Derby, where working parents with different skill sets and salaries will discuss what the extra 15 hours will mean for them.

Gingerbread, a charity for single-parent families, welcomed the move, saying that its research shows that almost half of single parents borrow money to pay for childcare costs.

A spokesman for the organisation said: "We are also very concerned the Government has brought forward the rollout to next year to support its plans to make single parents look for work as soon as their child turns three - two years younger than current laws require.

"While we're pleased that the Government has listened to our concerns about the childcare single parents would need, we are opposed to plans to make single parents looking after very young children go out to work.

"Most single parents want to work and a record number already do. The proposed new requirements undermine single parents' role as carers and their ability to undertake training to secure a decent job, and don't address other major barriers to work, such as a shortage of family-friendly jobs."

Save the Children also welcomed the announcement, but said that the quality of care being provided was as important as the quantity.

Gareth Jenkins, director of UK poverty at the charity, said: "For those families who will benefit from extra free hours of childcare being introduced a year earlier, this will be a welcome relief but it's not just about the quantity of those free hours.

"Quality is equally important. Ensuring that every nursery is led by an early years graduate could have a dramatic impact on children's education.

"Our poorest children are starting school 15 months behind their better-off classmates because they aren't getting the right quality education in the early years.

"If it's possible to bring down the cost of childcare for parents, it should also be possible to bridge the gap in attainment for these children."

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