Free childcare to be fast-tracked


Plans to double the free childcare for working parents in England have been fast-tracked by the government.

From September 2016, parents of three and four-year-olds will be granted 30 hours a week of free childcare - double the current entitlement. The change had been due to come into force in 2017, but some working parents will be entitled to the extra help when pilots begin in September next year.

But the Pre-School Learning Alliance has warned the childcare system is at breaking point if the Government does not increase the amount it pays providers.

The Pre-School Learning Alliance, which represents 14,000 private, voluntary and independent groups, says the government grant to childcare providers for the existing 15 hours falls, on average, around 20% short of the true cost - this equates to a potential shortfall of £250m.

Research for the charity suggests the government's plan to double childcare would cost around £195bn a year.

The National Day Nurseries Association welcomed the doubling of provision, but also said its members were struggling with current levels of investment and that funding was critical.

Chief executive Neil Leitch said: "Simply raising funding rates by an arbitrary amount won't be enough - it is absolutely crucial that the Government ensures that the hourly rate of funding actually covers the cost of delivering funded places. Anything less risks destabilising a childcare system that is already struggling to stay afloat."