To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what (a) practical and (b) financial support is available to families that rely on childcare provided by extended family members in areas with additional covid-19 restrictions in place which prevent the mixing of households unless they are in a support bubble.
We recognise that extended family members often provide informal childcare. In relevant areas where local restrictions are in place on household mixing, people cannot host others they do not live with, or who are not in their support bubbles, in their homes and gardens. Informal childcare is not exempt from these restrictions.
Nationally, our ‘Rule of Six’ guidance specifies the exceptions where groups can be larger than six people, which includes registered childcare and supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care, youth groups and activities, and children’s playgroups.
Parents who need support to obtain suitable childcare to meet their circumstances can contact their local authority for information and guidance about what childcare is available in their area.
The government funds a significant package of free and subsidised childcare. All 3 year olds and 4 year olds in England are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week, with 30 hours of free childcare available for eligible working parents. The government has acted to protect families that have faced a reduced income as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Parents who who were eligible for the 30 hours free childcare entitlement prior to the COVID-19 outbreak remain eligible until October even if they have experienced a change in income. Disadvantaged 2 year olds are also eligible for 15 hours of free childcare a week and eligible working parents may also be eligible for tax-free childcare. Parents can find out more about the free and subsidised childcare offers at: www.childcarechoices.gov.uk.
My right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced a series of policies to support people, jobs and businesses on 20 March 2020, during which he confirmed an increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance for 12 months, in addition to planned uprating of 1.7%. The Universal Credit childcare offer remains the same, and working families can claim back up to 85% of their registered childcare costs each month. This can be claimed up to a month before starting a job. For families with 2 children, this could be worth up to £13,000 a year.
Help with up-front childcare costs for starting work is available through a non-repayable Flexible Support Fund (FSF) award for eligible Universal Credit claimants. The FSF received an additional £150 million this financial year to help support Universal Credit claimants to move closer to, or into, work. Help with up-front costs for eligible Universal Credit claimants is available through Budgeting Advances.