Children’s Education Recovery and Childcare Costs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:37 pm on 7th June 2022.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister of State (Education) 4:37 pm, 7th June 2022

I am happy to do that, and if it would be helpful, I would be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to follow up and talk through that case in a separate discussion, because it sounds like an important case.

To ensure that schools are able to put in place whole-school approaches to mental health and wellbeing, we are providing £10 million to extend senior mental health lead training to even more schools and colleges. That training will be available to two thirds of eligible settings by March 2023 and to all state schools and colleges by 2025.

The Government are expanding and transforming mental health services for all, with additional investment of £2.3 billion a year through the NHS long-term plan. As part of that work, we are funding mental health support teams to provide specific support, to make links to other health provision and to help to support school staff to deal with issues. Because of the £79 million boost to children and young people’s mental health support that was announced in 2021, some 2.4 million children and young people now have access to a mental health support team, and more teams are on the way, with numbers set to increase from 287 teams today to more than 500 by 2024.

I recognise that people throughout the country are worried about the impact of rising prices, with many households struggling to make their income stretch to cover the basics. Although we cannot insulate people from every part of cost rises, we are stepping up to provide support, as we did during the pandemic. This year alone, we are increasing core schools funding by £4 billion compared with 2021-22. That is a 7% per-pupil boost in cash terms that will help schools to meet the pressures that we know they face, especially in respect of energy costs and pay.

I recognise the strength of feeling when it comes to our childcare system. We want families to benefit from the childcare support they are entitled to, thereby saving them money and helping them to give their children the best start in life. I am proud to be part of a Government who have extended access to early education and childcare to millions of children and parents over the past decade.

In 2013, the Conservative-led coalition Government introduced 15 hours of free childcare for disadvantaged two-year-olds. So far, this has helped more than 1 million children to get a much-needed boost to their early education. To ensure that all children are ready for school, all three and four-year-old children continue to be eligible for 15 hours of free early education a week, and nine out of 10 took up the entitlement last year.

In 2017, the Conservative Government announced 30 hours of free childcare for working families, to save families up to £6,000 a year. Because of that, thousands of parents have been able to return to paid work or increase their hours, while saving thousands of pounds a year. We have also introduced tax-free childcare, which provides working parents with up to £2,000 of support to help with childcare costs for children under the age of 12. With universal credit, parents can claim back 85% of eligible childcare costs, compared with 70% under the old system.[This section has been corrected on 27 June 2022, column 2MC — read correction]

We invest a significant amount of funding in early education and childcare, including more than £3.5 billion in each of the past three years on early education entitlements for two, three and four-year-olds. In 2022-23, we have increased the hourly funding rates for all local authorities—by 21p per hour for the two-year-old entitlement and, for the vast majority of areas, by 17p per hour for the three and four-year-old entitlement.