Jeremy Hunt defends speed of launch of budget offer for free childcare
Eremy Hunt has defended the speed of rolling out its budget for free childcare for working parents with children under five.
The expansion will begin in April 2024 and will not be fully available until September 2025.
The Chancellor told Sky News the policy is “the biggest transformation” in childcare of her life, but that service needs to be expanded first.
“It’s a huge shift and we’re going to need thousands more kindergartens, thousands more schools offering facilities they don’t currently offer, thousands more childminders,” he said.
“We’re going as fast as we can to expand what’s on offer in the market.
“But it’s the right thing to do because we have one of the most expensive childcare systems in the world and we know it’s a big concern, especially for women, that they have that cliff when maternity leave ends after nine months of no help until the child is three , and that can often be the end of a career.
“So I think it’s the right thing for a lot of women to introduce these reforms and we’re introducing them as soon as possible because we want to remove those barriers to work.”
All three and four-year-olds are currently entitled to a free part-time kindergarten place for 15 hours a week, 38 weeks a year.
These children are entitled to 30 hours of free childcare if both parents earn the equivalent of at least 16 hours a week at the national living wage, although some high-income families are excluded from free provision.
The new policy includes 30 hours per week for parents of one- and two-year-olds.
In his budget on Wednesday, Mr Hunt said it would be worth up to £6,500 for working families.
The move was widely welcomed, but Mr Hunt faces controversy over a tax break to discourage an estimated 15,000 high earners from leaving the labor market early.
Labor said scrapping the £1.07million lifetime pension supplement, which allows higher earners to invest more in their pensions without paying extra tax, was the “wrong priority”.
It aims to force a vote on the issue in the House of Commons next week.
But the Government says it primarily aims to prevent skilled workers such as NHS advisers from leaving work because pension rules encourage them to retire earlier.
https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/jeremy-hunt-budget-2023-free-childcare-rollout-eligibility-b1067707.html Jeremy Hunt defends speed of launch of budget offer for free childcare