Free Childcare Entitlement

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:48 pm on 6th September 2017.

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Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Minister of State (Education) 12:48 pm, 6th September 2017

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for allowing this urgent question, which gives me the opportunity to highlight the Conservative Government’s determination to support as many families as possible with access to high-quality, affordable childcare and early-years education. We are investing a record amount: our support will total £6 billion per year by 2020. My Department is committed to ensuring that all three and four-year-olds have access to free childcare. All parents, regardless of their income and employment status, are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare for their three and four-year-olds; take-up of that universal entitlement is 95%. In addition, take-up of 15 hours of free childcare for disadvantaged two-year-olds is rising, and it is fantastic that more than 70% of eligible two-year-olds are benefiting from this.

On 1 September 2017, the Government reached a major milestone in delivering our key manifesto pledge to double the free childcare entitlements for working parents of three and four-year-olds from 15 to 30 hours. Today I have tabled a written ministerial statement updating the House on delivery of the 30-hours offer. By 31 August, more than our targeted 200,000 30-hours codes had been issued to eligible parents wishing to take up a place this autumn; indeed, I can update the House on the figure: 216,384 codes issued. These families join the 15,000 families who are already benefitting from 30 hours of free childcare in our 12 early delivery pilot areas. The independent evaluations of these areas were encouraging, showing that more than three quarters of parents reported greater flexibility in their working life as a result of 30 hours, and more than eight out of 10 childcare providers offering the 15 hours entitlement went on to offer 30 hours.

During the autumn, I will closely monitor delivery of all free childcare entitlements to ensure continued improvements to all our offers for parents and providers. I will continue to work closely with Her Majesty’s Treasury Ministers to ensure that parents can access the HMRC-run childcare service smoothly. The majority of parents have successfully applied using the childcare service, but some parents experienced difficulties accessing the service through the system by the 31 August application deadline. Those parents who are eligible and applied before the deadline will have a code to allow them to access our 30 hours of free childcare. They will not lose out.

I am pleased to report that this is yet another key manifesto pledge delivered for working families.