Wednesday, 24 Apr 2024

Jeremy Hunt unveils £5,000,000,000 childcare pledge in Budget

Parents and campaigners have welcomed a £5billion boost to childcare in Jeremy Hunt’s Budget – but he was warned he now needs to fund more staff to meet his targets.

The chancellor promised up to 30 hours a week of free childcare for eligible families in England, expanding it to cover all pre-school children from nine months old.

The move, from September 2025, will be worth up to £6,500 a year for working families and is part of a wider drive to encourage more people into employment.

Mr Hunt also pledged an expansion in wraparound care at the start and finish of the school day for parents with older children, plus changes to staff-to-child ratios in England to expand supply of childcare.

He told the Commons: ‘In eligible households where all adults are working at least 16 hours, we will introduce 30 hours of free childcare not just for three- and four-year-olds, but for every single child over the age of nine months. It will start from the moment maternity or paternity leave ends.’

But Mr Hunt was told carers and nurseries could struggle to take on the extra workload – although the government has promised to boost childminder numbers.

Spring budget 2023: Key points

  • Seven key takeaways from today’s Budget
  • Energy price guarantee to remain at £2,500 for the next three months
  • 30 hours of free childcare for every child over the age of 9 months
  • Pension changes coming in 2023 – from payment rises to tax cuts

To get the latest from the budget announcement visit Metro.co.uk’s Metro’s Budget news hub.

Dame Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner for England, said the measures offered a ‘lifeline’ to families ‘especially those on Universal Credit who previously had to pay large childcare costs up front’.

Becca Lyon, head of child poverty at Save the Children UK, said: ‘This is a great stride forwards in fixing a system that stopped parents working and put them into debt.

‘But this is only the start of childcare reform. Providers have been badly bruised by underfunding, the pandemic and now the cost of living crisis.’ And Christina McAnea, general secretary of the Unison union, said: ‘Many nurseries struggle to offer enough free hours as it is and can’t recruit the workers to deliver extra.’

Parents working 16 hours a week, with children aged nine months to five years, will receive 15 hours’ free childcare. Last year the average annual price for full-time nursery childcare in England for a child under two was more than £14,000.

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