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Children: Day Care

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL3327, tabled on 21 October 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the benefits of investing in flexible childcare arrangements on the annual earnings of working mothers.

Answered on

5 November 2021

All three and four year olds in England are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare each week, providing children with high-quality early education and helping parents to return to work. Disadvantaged families in England are also eligible for 15 hours of free early education a week for their two year old children. In January 2021, 87% of all three year olds and 93% of all four year olds, including those in a reception place, were registered for some funded early education.

30 hours of free childcare was introduced in England in September 2017 and is an entitlement for working parents of three and four year olds, benefitting around 330,000 children in January 2021. The entitlement aims to help working parents, including mothers, with the costs of childcare so they can take up paid work if they want to or can work additional hours.

The department’s 2019 parent survey highlights the impact 30 hours can have on parents’ working patterns, with 33% of parents saying that in the absence of 30 hours childcare they would be working fewer hours and the majority of parents (70%) reporting that 30 hours of childcare had given them more flexibility in the hours they could work. Findings also showed that a small but notable proportion of mothers reported that accessing 30 hours had led them to enter work (6%) or increase their hours (17%). The 2019 parent survey can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/childcare-and-early-years-survey-of-parents-2019.

All of the department’s entitlements provide free early education for parents across 38 weeks of the year. They can also be made more flexible by being “stretched” if parents wish to use fewer hours over more weeks and this is an option their childcare provider offers.

An independent evaluation into the national roll out of the government’s 30 hours entitlements found that 26% of mothers reported they had been able to increase their working hours and 15% stated they would not be working without the extended hours. These effects were stronger for lower income families. Furthermore, most providers delivering the extended hours (over 90%) reported that they offered parents a free choice or at least some choice in when they took the extended hours. The evaluation can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/740168/Evaluation_of_national_rollout_of_30_hours_free-childcare.pdf.

We recognise that the needs of many parents will have changed dramatically in line with the reopening of the economy and the department continues to investigate how we can improve these experiences for parents.