The government's plans for free childcare...in 60 seconds

…written by Up All Hours

  1. #childcare
  2. #policy
  3. #government
  4. #nursery

So the government is going to increase the amount of free childcare you get for 3-year-olds? Yay!

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Well, yes, it was planning to. It probably still will. But not definitely.

What do you mean?

Currently, children aged 3 and upwards get 15 hours of free childcare per week from the government. Before the election, it seemed like the parties were vying to outdo eachother by promising to increase this. The Tories said they'd double it, to 30 hours a week.

Great!

Mmm. However, nurseries say they might have to put up their fees to cope with this. Because what they get paid by the government for each of those hours isn't what it actually costs them to look after the child. So if more hours are 'covered' by the government, they'll either go bust, or have to whack up other fees, eg for babies, or 3-year-olds who need more than 30 hours a week, to make up the shortfall.

That sounds like parents who need the most childcare, ie those who want to work more days, might end up subsidising this change. Or struggle to get a nursery place at all. Which wasn't the point of the policy?

Maybe. But don't worry - the government is going to 'review' it all over the summer. So although their intention is still to go ahead with this in 2016, it's got some time to try and sort out this muddle.

Phew. I'll just wait and see then.

Actually, there's something else. If you have a 2-year-old, you ought to register for the current childcare voucher scheme now. Because the system is going to change in the autumn. From one based on salary sacrifice (which lots of employers aren't part of) to the govt providing 20% (capped) of your childcare costs - even if you're self-employed.

Great! That can only be a good thing, right?

It's really complicated, as when a child turns 3 some families will be better off and some will be worse, depending on if they stick with the current system or move to the new one. But you can't opt for the voucher system unless you register now, even if you don't use it.

Okaaaay. I'll try and do that then. But how exactly do I work out which system is better for our family?

The treasury says it's going to set up an online calculator to look at your family's individual set-up. So you'll know how to get the most free childcare.

My head hurts. Just let me know when that's ready please.

Will do.

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