Amongst the few bright points in the Chancellor’s autumn statement was the announcement of further investment in free childcare for 2 year-olds, with 40% of families now set to benefit. The Coalition will provide an additional £380 million of early investment a year by 2014/15 to cover a further 130,000 free childcare places.
The Coalition’s continued support for early year’s education is pleasing and reflects the genuine support the early years now receive across the political spectrum. Ensuring enough high quality provision for 130,000 and then 260,000 children will be a key challenge for local authorities, particularly as access to childcare remains limited in some areas, but we are confident that this challenge can be met.
The Chancellor’s announcement follows on from last year’s comprehensive spending review where free childcare for all 3-4 year olds was increased from 12.5 to 15 hours a week and extended to cover 130,000 places for 2 year-olds. The announcement of expanding the 2 year-old offer beyond the 20 per cent most disadvantaged – largely those in families on out of work benefits – means it will now be accessible to the children of low income working families, providing them with a subsidy to the value of between £50-75 per week which will be a welcomed boost in difficult times.