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Free Childcare

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th September 2017.

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Photo of Heidi Alexander Heidi Alexander Labour, Lewisham East 12:00 am, 11th September 2017

What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the roll-out of the Government’s policy on 30 hours of free childcare.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Minister of State (Education)

Our assessment has seen great success in the 12 early delivery areas: more than 15,000 children were able to benefit from the 30 hours entitlement ahead of the offer rolling out in full, taking huge pressures off families’ lives and budgets.

Photo of Heidi Alexander Heidi Alexander Labour, Lewisham East

Last week, 29% of families with eligibility codes for this term had not yet secured a funded childcare place. Will the Minister update the House on what progress has been made, and will he say whether there are specific parts of the country where securing a place is proving particularly problematic?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Minister of State (Education)

I was very pleased that by the third day of term last week—Wednesday, when we had the urgent question—71% of parents had found a place for their child. We are looking at the picture up and down the country, and where there are situations of insufficiency, we have made available £100 million of capital funding, which will fund an additional 16,000 places where we need them.

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

Parents in Dudley South will welcome the offer of 30 hours of free childcare. With the scheme being rolled out across the country, will the Minister confirm how many applications for places have now been made?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Minister of State (Education)

Certainly, 216,384 parents have secured a code. Of those, as I have said, 71% have already found a place, and no doubt more are finding additional places this week.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Labour, Cambridge

Back in 2015, David Cameron promised that the 30 hours would, in his words, be “completely free”. Every nursery I speak to in Cambridge tells me that it is having to cross-subsidise and often charge for extras, including lunch. Will the Minister tell us in what sense that is completely free?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Minister of State (Education)

May I make it clear yet again that the 30 hours entitlement is free? Additional hours, lunch and other add-ons can be charged for, but they must not be a prerequisite for taking up the 30 hours.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

When it is fully up and running, how many working families will be able to take advantage of the 30 hours of free childcare, and on average, how much will it be worth per year per child to each of those families?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Minister of State (Education)

We saw some—I think, deliberately—inaccurate reporting this week in the Sunday Mirror, which forgot completely that we are going to have three intakes in the year. As I have said, we have had more than 200,000 this time, and we will have a new intake in January and another one after Easter. This offer is worth £5,000 per child, a great fillip for families who want to get more hours at work.

Photo of Tracy Brabin Tracy Brabin Shadow Minister (Education)

In their manifesto, the Government said that they would deliver high-quality childcare for working families, supported by thousands of new nursery places every year. However, as they roll out their policy of 30 hours of free childcare, Ministers have admitted that 110,000 children of working parents will not be eligible for the extended childcare entitlement simply because their parents do not earn enough, shutting out families who most need the additional support. That strikes me not as high-quality childcare but as another broken manifesto commitment, akin to the Government’s betrayal on working tax credits in 2015. Does the Minister have any plans to deliver for the lowest-earning and hardest-pressed parents?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Minister of State (Education)

The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that during the roll-out in the pilot areas 23% of mothers and 9% of fathers could take additional hours. More importantly, people who could not get work at all because of the cost of childcare can now be in work, earn money and supply a better lifestyle for their families.