Government pushes forward doubling of free childcare

The British government has said that it will bring forward plans to double free childcare for working parents, with some families now set to benefit from the plans from next year.

Childcare
The Childcare Bill will affect parents of three to four year olds, increasing the amount of free care on offer to 30 hours a week. It will be available to up to 600,000 families and, coupled with existing free childcare offers, will be worth around £5,000 a year. Pilots of the programme will begin in September 2016.The CBI hailed the scheme as important for businesses. Katja Hall, deputy director-general for the CBI, said, "Increasing free childcare provision is an important step to enabling parents to pursue their careers, and to allowing businesses to retain skilled and talented employees.""In time we would like to see the gap closed between the end of maternity leave and the start of free provision," she added.Prime Minister David Cameron said that the government will push forward with the plans as quickly as possible. "My message is clear. This government is on the side of working people – helping them get on and supporting them at every stage of life," he said."That is exactly why we are pressing ahead with these reforms - so that not a moment is lost in getting on with the task - going further than ever before to help with childcare costs, helping hardworking families and giving people the opportunity to get into work."The government also said that it will review the hourly rate paid to providers of free care.The additional funding was welcomed by the Pre-School Learning Alliance, which represents 14,000 childcare groups. It warned, however, that the government must work with providers to ensure that the increased funding is adequate."Given that the childcare extension plans have been costed at just £350m a year - a figure that our research suggests is around a quarter of what is actually needed - we are concerned that the government is still significantly underestimating the scale of the existing funding shortfall," Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said.For more news and articles like this, see Re:locate's Enterprise and Human Resources sections.

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