The government recognises the impact rising energy prices can have on businesses, the voluntary sector and public sector organisations of all sizes, including all early years settings. The energy regulator Ofgem and the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero are in regular contact with business groups and suppliers to understand the challenges they face and to explore ways to protect consumers and businesses.
In September 2022, the government announced unprecedented support to protect households and businesses from high energy prices. The £18 billion Energy Bill Relief Scheme is supporting millions of businesses with rising energy costs, and my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made clear this will continue until June 2023.
From June 2023 to March 2024 the introduction of the Energy Bills Discount Scheme will provide non-domestic consumers, including early years and childcare providers, with a unit discount on gas and electricity costs. The new scheme will strike a balance between supporting businesses over the next 12 months and limiting taxpayer’s exposure to volatile energy markets. This financial support provides long term certainty for non-domestic consumers.
In the Spring Budget 2023, the Chancellor announced transformative reforms to childcare for parents, children and the economy. By 2027/28, the government will expect to be spending in excess of £8 billion a year on free hours and early education, helping working families with their childcare costs. This represents the largest ever investment in childcare in England.
The department is committed to improving the cost, choice, and availability of childcare and government funding schemes are designed to be flexible enough to support families’ different situations, including parents who are night workers.
The department is closing the gap between parental leave ending and the current childcare offer for working parents, and ensuring all parents of primary-aged children can access wraparound childcare in school.
We will invest £204 million in 2023/24 to uplift the rates for existing entitlements, rising to £288 million in 2024/25, with further uplifts beyond this so that providers have the funding they need to deliver childcare entitlements.
The department is continuing to take action to maintain choice and availability for parents by attracting more people to childminding, through a start-up grant fund of up to £7.2 million over the next two years.