To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to help ensure that people are able to access childcare in the context of the rising cost of living.
All children aged three and four can access 15 hours of free childcare a week and the department has doubled this for three and four-year-olds in families where parents work, saving them over £6,000 a year, alongside offering 15 hours of free childcare for two year olds from lower-income families. At the Spending Review, the department announced additional funding for these entitlements worth £160 million in the 2022/23 financial year, £180 million in the 2023/24 financial year and £170 million in the 2024/25 financial year, compared to the 2021/22 financial year.
The department has introduced tax-free childcare, through which eligible families are entitled to up to £2,000 per child per year for children aged 0-11, and this goes up to £4,000 a year for disabled children aged 0-16. Lower income families receiving Universal Credit can also claim back up to 85% of their childcare costs, which is significantly more generous than the previous benefits system and can be used alongside the free early education entitlements.
Our Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme supported more than 600,000 children last summer with free holiday club places. The department is making more than £600 million available to local authorities in England over the next three years for the HAF programme, providing disadvantaged children and families with access to healthy food and enriching activities during the longer school holidays.