David Cameron has brought forward plans for his election promise of double the amount of free childcare for working parents with children that are three and four years old.
The Childcare Bill, introduced today (Tuesday), will increase free childcare from 15 to 30 hours a week, and will be accessible to some parents from 2016 – a year earlier than originally planned – claiming to save them up to £5,000 a year.
Minister for Employment, Priti Patel said:
“We are doing more than any other government to improve the affordability and accessibility of childcare for working families.
“Having the right childcare in place will mean more parents can have genuine choice, security and peace of mind when it comes to being able to support their family.”
The Bill will include a pilot programme available up to 600,000 families. It will be introduced to the whole of England by 2017.
However, Sarah-Jane Butler, founder of childcare advice website Parental Choice, believes the offer is too good to be true. She said:
“I think the idea makes a good headline but even now the 15 hours of childcare available is not exactly free as nurseries and child-minders can’t provide the quality and safety parents and children deserve for the amount the government provides. So parents shouldn’t be misled. There will still be costs to pay.”
“Plus it also begs the question what does one do for children under three years old? When women are looking to return to work after maternity leave, one of the biggest factors is the cost of childcare. Taking three years out of the work market can have a big impact on home finances as well as career prospects.”