The entitlement to free early years education is set to change this September, writes Melanie Hallam at Alderley Day Nursery.
Currently, all 3 and 4 year olds in England are entitled to receive 570 hours of free early years education each year – this is known as the 15-hour, 38-week Universal Offer. The entitlement usually kicks in at the beginning of the school term after a child reaches their third birthday. From September 2017, this entitlement could double to 1,140 free hours annually for some working families. This new offer is known as the 30-hour Free Childcare Scheme. It equates to around £2,000+ per year, per child, in extra help towards childcare costs.
To qualify for the full 30 hours of free childcare, each parent (or the sole parent in a single parent family) will need to earn, on average, the equivalent of 16 hours at the national minimum or living wage per week, and no more than £100,000 per year. Self-employed parents and parents on zero-hours contracts will be eligible if they meet the average earnings threshold. Families may also be eligible if one parent is working and the other is temporarily away from the workplace, on maternity leave for example, or if the other parent has substantial caring responsibilities, or if one parent is disabled (based on receipt of specific benefits).
The easiest way to find out whether you’re eligible is at this website.
Childcare providers do not have to offer the funded hours and some are concerned that, if they do, the money from the government won’t fully cover the cost of delivering it. To make it work, childcare providers might need to consider ways to fill the funding gap, for example by raising fees or charging more for additional services.
The first thing is to check your eligibility. Secondly, speak to your childcare provider to determine whether they will be offering the 30 hours. The Government estimates that around 390,000 children will be eligible for the full 30 hours, so demand for nursery places will be high, and you know what they say about the early bird …
Alderley Day Nursery is committed to offering the 30 hours free childcare scheme and currently has building works underway to meet the needs of local families.