The Department for Education has published a policy statement on the Childcare Bill allowing the Lords to consider the proposals ahead of the 'report stage' of the bill, on Wednesday 14 October.
Alongside a statement of the government’s policy intention for the extended entitlement, the package includes:
- An overview of parents and providers feedback, gathered through Government consultation over the summer.
- Further details on the delivery model, setting out the government’s intention to deliver the 30 hours via local authorities
- Additional detail on eligibility for the 30 free hours, alongside establishing a review and appeals process
- A comprehensive visual road map, providing all of the key milestones up to the full implementation of the bill as policy in 2017.
Some key points that PACEY members may find of interest are:
- Further details of eligibility for free entitlement has been outlined. Both parents need to be working for at least eight hours per week, or one parent working in lone parent families. Students will not be eligible unless they also meet the minimum work requirements.
- The bill will recognise the role families play in providing care for children. Where grandparents or other family members have parental responsibility for a child aged three or four, and where they meet the work criteria, they will be able to claim for early years entitlement. PACEY have continued to raise the importance of childminders being able to claim the entitlement for related children, and we have asked for further clarification on this matter.
- The bill is expected to proceed rapidly through Parliament, with a final consultation in Spring 2016, early implementers will begin to offer the 30 hours from Autumn 2016 and the full 30 hours will be offered from Autumn 2017.
- The statement explains that the entitlement will be delivered through local authorities, as the existing entitlement is. It also sets out that “we want to ensure that the system is simple and flexible for parents to use and is responsive to parents’ working patterns”. PACEY has repeatedly highlighted the flexibility of the system being important for our members.
- The needs of children with special education needs and disabilities are highlighted in the statement for special consideration. PACEY is currently working with a number of disability organisations to ensure that the needs of these families are taken into account in the Childcare Bill.
- The quality of the early years workforce is highlighted as being central to ensuring benefits for children. The statement outlines a commitment from government to review progression routes in 2016 and PACEY looks forward to sharing our ideas with Ministers and policy makers.
You can read the policy statement in full here.
Liz Bayram, Chief Executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, said:
"It is reassuring to see the Government’s commitment to ensuring both choice and flexibility for parents, while making sure that these additional funded free hours are sustainable for providers.
"Since the bill was first proposed we have been stressing the importance of a comprehensive workforce strategy, to ensure the long term sustainability of the sector.
"We are encouraged therefore to note that this latest policy statement highlights the importance of a high quality early years workforce as central to delivering the increased free entitlement. We welcome the Government’s commitment to reviewing progression routes in 2016.
"As our Building Blocks survey highlights, the vast majority of childcare professionals are committed to developing their skills, but significant and continuing erosion of local authority support means childcare professionals are increasingly left to plan and fund their own personal development without support.
"We agree that the sector should offer real opportunities for practitioners to 'forge a successful career within early years'. It's critical for sustainability and quality that we retain the excellent practitioners already working in settings and we look forward to working with our Government to make this happen."
You can follow the progress of the Bill as it makes its way through Parliament here