The Childcare Bill, which seeks to double the amount of free childcare given to working parents of 3- and 4-year-olds, has been debated by peers in the House of Lords over the last two weeks.
Peers from all political parties strongly support the Bill’s underlying objective of making childcare more affordable for working families, but have condemned its lack of detail.
However, a clearer picture of how the Bill might actually work in practice is gradually emerging. We now know that parents will need to work at least eight hours per week to qualify for the extra 15 hours, and this can be in the form of education, training, voluntary work or additional work experience.
The Government has indicated it wants a wide range of childcare providers, including childminders, to be able to deliver the extra 15 hours of childcare. However, providers will not be required to provide the additional 15 hours. Those who choose not to will still be able to deliver the existing universal 15 hour entitlement. This will have no impact on a provider’s Ofsted outcome.
During the debates, the Government frequently stressed that the views of childcare providers, parents, local authorities and employers will be crucial in filling in the detail of the Bill. Lord Nash said: "I believe the sooner the Government begin listening to the views of those accessing and providing childcare the better it will be."
The Government has also promised to carefully consider the report of the Affordable Childcare Select Committee, to which PACEY was a leading contributor.
PACEY was pleased to hear peers from across the political spectrum echo its calls for a strategy to increase the quality and capacity of the early years workforce. PACEY is in regular discussions with the Childcare Minister and his team to take this forward.
The Government is currently reviewing the cost of providing childcare and has committed to increase the average funding rate paid to providers. To support this, a call for evidence has been launched that will gather information about the cost of delivering childcare places. We've put together some guidance to help you if you would like to respond separately. We will shortly be asking members for their views to help us pull together our formal response to the call for evidence.
The Childcare Bill will be debated again by the House of Lords in October, when the results of the funding review and wider consultation with the sector will be taken into account.
In the meantime, PACEY will continue to meet with decision makers in Westminster and Whitehall to share your concerns.