The provision of 30 hours of free childcare is already working across the country. A recently published independent evaluation of the early roll-out programme shows that more than 80% of providers are willing and able to offer the extended hours. The Department will be investing an additional £1 billion per year by 2019-20 into the free entitlement, including more than £300 million per year to increase the national average funding rates paid to local authorities.
As I have pointed out, we carried out a pilot to show that this could work. We also got a review of childcare costs done that was described as “thorough” and “wide-ranging” by the National Audit Office. We have increased the minimum funding rate to £4.30 per hour, which means that £4.41 is paid for three and four-year-olds in Ipswich and £5.20 for two-year-olds.
In Liverpool, Walton, 36% of children are growing up in poverty, and unemployment is twice the national average. Did Ministers give any thought to how this policy would only further entrench the development gap between those most disadvantaged children still just getting the 15 hours a week and those with parents in secure employment getting the 30 hours a week?
The most-disadvantaged children get 15 hours at age two, and we have the early-years pupil premium to help with those children as well. We are closing the attainment gap. The hon. Gentleman talks about worklessness. This funding for working parents means more people getting into work and taking the jobs that this successful economy is creating.