To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the (1) affordability, and (2) availability, of childcare.
23 September 2021
The government is committed to supporting families with the cost of childcare, which is why the government has made an unprecedented investment in childcare over the past decade.
We have spent over £3.5 billion in each of the past three years on our early education entitlements and the government continues to support families with their childcare costs. The universal 15 hours entitlement, available for every three and four year old, can save parents up to £2,500 per year, and eligible working parents can apply for an additional 15 hours free childcare which can save them up to £5,000 if they use the full 30 hours. 30 hours free childcare was introduced in England in September 2017 and is an entitlement for working parents of three and four year olds, benefitting nearly 330,000 in January 2021.
In addition to the free early education entitlements, the government offers Tax-Free Childcare for children from 0-11 years old, or up to 16 if disabled. This scheme means that for every £8 parents pay their provider via an online account, the government will pay £2 – up to a maximum contribution of £2,000 per child each year, or £4,000 if disabled. 308,000 families used Tax-Free Childcare for 364,000 children in June 2021.
Parents may also benefit from Universal Credit. Working parents on a low income can get up to 85% of their childcare costs for children under 16 reimbursed through Universal Credit Childcare. This is subject to a monthly limit of £646 for one child or £1,108 for two or more children, payable in arrears.
Last November, my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced a £44 million investment for 2021 to 2022, for local authorities to increase hourly rates paid to childcare providers for the government’s free childcare entitlement offers.
With regard to the availability of childcare, national data published by Ofsted shows that there were 72,000 childcare providers registered with them on 31 March 2021, a dip of 4%, or 3,300, since 31 August 2020. The data also shows that of that number, 2,800 were childminders or home child carers and not nurseries. Further information is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/childcare-providers-and-inspections-as-at-31-march-2021.
That data also shows that numbers of ‘childcare settings on non-domestic premises’, which is the Ofsted description of nurseries which are not based in schools, have remained fairly stable over time, with a drop of just 1% since 31 August 2015 and a decrease of 2%, or 400, between 31 August 2020 and 31 March 2021.
Ofsted data currently shows that the number of places available to parents seeking childcare has remained broadly stable since August 2015. Additionally, the majority of eligible children aged two, three and four, have continued to access free childcare, despite the challenges faced throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. In a recent survey by Ipsos MORI in July 2021, only 6% of parents whose child was not receiving formal childcare said they would like to use formal childcare but have not been able to find a suitable provider. This is only approximately 2% of all parents.