The Department for Education have taken a number of actions as part of the Government’s plan to increase the supply and affordability of childcare.
The Department has extended free early learning places to around 260,000 two-year-olds from September 2014. Low income working parents can already benefit from support through the childcare element of working tax credit. Once Universal Credit is introduced this will rise to 85% of costs. From autumn 2015 almost 2 million families could benefit from a new tax free childcare scheme, worth up to £2,000 per child which will expand support for affordable childcare and stimulate demand. We are investing £50 million through a new Early Years Pupil Premium to support the early education of disadvantaged children.
Our reforms to the role of local authorities have reduced unnecessary bureaucracy and improved consistency in accessing Government funding. All providers judged ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and providers newly registered with Ofsted are guaranteed early education funding making it easier for existing providers to expand their business and new providers to enter the market.
We have relaxed planning rules so that non-domestic early years childcare providers can deliver additional and high quality places to meet increasing demand allowing premises previously used for offices, hotels, non-residential institutions, and leisure and assembly purposes to be able to change use to nurseries. We are exploring local authorities’ use of their discretionary rate relief powers to support business rates costs falling to childcare providers.
We have brought forward legislation to enable providers to register multiple premises in a single registration process so, for example, a nursery chain can notify Ofsted of its intention to open a number of new settings in a single registration process.
We have also brought forward legislation to remove the requirement for schools to register separately with Ofsted to take two-year-olds and are supporting partnership working between schools and private and voluntary providers.
We know that high-quality childcare has a powerful impact on children’s outcomes, particularly the most disadvantaged children. That is why we are driving up standards through a stronger inspection framework, and focusing Local Authority support on weaker providers and improving the skills and status of the workforce.