This week the Government announced a new package of measures that will increase support for parents, boost the number of childminders and drive take-up of childcare offers in view of the recent rises in the cost of living.
One of the major challenges that have faced families throughout the course of the Pandemic has been the cost and availability of childcare. The measures the government is introducing this week hope to change that. The UK has some of the highest-quality childcare provisions in the world with 96% of early years settings rated by Ofsted as good or outstanding, but it is also one of the biggest costs facing working families today. This means some families, in particular women, feel they are not able to return to the workplace after giving birth due to the high cost of putting their children into paid care.
With the cost of living continuing to increase, the government is committed to ensuring families are supported and are able to continue working as normal despite the increased pressure. To drive down costs for providers and parents, a new childcare regulatory changes consultation will look at increasing the number of children that can be looked after by each staff member in early years settings. It will propose changing staff-to-child ratios from 1:4 to 1:5 for 2-year-olds, giving providers more flexibility in how they run their businesses while maintaining safety and quality of care. Childcare for children aged 0 to 2 is the most expensive for providers to deliver, largely given the need for higher supervision levels.
This change could potentially eventually reduce the cost of this form of childcare by up to 15%, or up to £40 per week for a family paying £265 per week for care for their 2-year-old if providers adopt the changes and pass all the savings on to parents.
Across the UK, almost 1 million eligible families have not taken up their right to tax-free childcare, which is worth £2,000 per year or £4,000 for children with disabilities. In addition, Universal Credit childcare allows families to reclaim 85% of their childcare costs, worth up to £1,108 per month. The government also offers 15 hours per week of free childcare or early education for all 3- and 4-year-olds, rising to 30 hours for working families, and 15 hours for disadvantaged 2-year-olds.
The Government has also launched a new website called ‘Childcare Choices’ so parents can see and access the support they are entitled to and through a ramped-up marketing campaign, launched last week, it is hoped more families will take advantage of the support available. You can find more information by heading to the new website here: https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/.