The Spring Budget included a number of childcare measures, including a large expansion of free childcare for younger children.
Expanding 30 hours free childcare
Working parents in England will be able to access 30 hours of free childcare per week, from when their child in 9 months old to when they start school. This will be rolled out in stages:
- From April 2024, all working parents of 2-year-olds can access 15 hours per week
- From September 2024, all working parents of children aged 9 months up to 3 years old can access 15 hours per week
- From September 2025 all working parents of children aged 9 months up to 3 years old can access 30 hours free childcare per week
As with the current 30 hours offer, childcare providers will be able to offer the free entitlement hours over a higher number of weeks.
The current free childcare offers for two, three and four year olds will not change, so some two year olds will be entitled to 15 hours free childcare, all three and four year olds will be entitled to 15 hours free childcare and three and four year olds with working parents will be entitled to an additional 15 hours of free childcare, all during 38 weeks of the year.
The Government will provide £4.1bn in funding to pay for this expansion by 2027-28. In addition to this, the Government will provide £204m of additional funding this year to increase the funding for the current free childcare entitlements, increasing to £288m by 2024-25.
Changes to staff ratios
The government will also change the staff-to-child ratios for 2-year-olds in England, moving from 1:4 to 1:5 to align with Scotland and comparable countries. The new ratios will give providers more flexibility, without compromising children’s safety or quality of provision. They will be optional, with no obligation on providers to adopt them.
The Government will also consult on further measures to support reform of the childcare market to explore further flexibilities for providers.
Start up grants for childminders
The government will also provide start-up grants for new childminders, including for those who choose to register with a childminder agency. Childminders who register with Ofsted will receive a start-up grant of £600, whereas those who register with a childminder agency will receive £1200.
The government will give local authorities and schools in England with £289 million in start-up funding over two academic years, starting in September 2024, to set up wraparound childcare provision in primary schools.
Universal Credit childcare changes
Families on low incomes can claim support to help them pay for childcare through Universal Credit, covering up to 85% of their childcare costs. The Spring Budget announced that this support would now be paid up-front when they are moving into work or increasing their hours, rather than in arrears meaning low-income families will find it easier to afford and it will help remove a barrier that many face when thinking about going back to work. The Government will also increase the Universal Credit childcare cap to £951 for one child (up from £646) and £1,630 for two children (up from £1,108).