Government doubles investment in additional childcare places to £100m

By Gabriella Jozwiak

| 10 April 2017

The government has doubled the amount of money it will spend on efforts to increase the number of childcare places on offer to £100m, the Department for Education has announced.

Free childcare for three- and four-year-olds will be extended to 30 hours a week in September. Picture: Lucie Carlier

After receiving high numbers of applications for capital funding worth up to £50m, announced in January, the government has decided to increase the amount available to help nurseries, pre-schools and playgroups upgrade facilities and develop new buildings.

It said the total investment will create more than 18,000 additional childcare places, intended to help providers deliver a new entitlement for children of working parents to receive up to 30 hours of government-funded care from September. 

The announcement follows research published by the Pre-school Learning Alliance suggesting less than half of childcare providers are planning to offer the 30-hour initiative. 

Nearly six out of 10 (58.3 per cent) respondents to the organisation's survey of more than 1,300 providers cited a lack of funding as being the main obstacle to delivering the policy.   

Early years minister Caroline Dinenage said today's money would help the government realise its plan to make England "a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few".

"That means removing the barriers facing parents struggling to balance their jobs with the cost of childcare," she said. 

"This investment will deliver more childcare places to working parents, giving them the benefits of 30 hours' free childcare while giving their children high-quality early education that sets them up for life." 

On the same day, the DfE confirmed it will hand out an additional £5m to 13 early years settings who successfully bid for voluntary and community sector grants designed to support professionals delivering the 30 hours offer.

The successful applicants include those working with parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities, and disadvantaged children who require home learning. 

Swindon Borough Council has said it plans to use its allocation to create an additional 170 places, including 30 with a specific focus on children with complex needs. 

Swindon Borough Council's lead member for children's services Fionuala Foley said she expected demand for the 30-hour offer to be high.

"Each project is very different and will offer working families greater choice and flexibility to access high-quality provision in Swindon," she said.

The DfE also announced that from within the £50m capital funding it has allocated £5m to 12 so-called "opportunity areas", identified by the government as needing additional support to improve children's social mobility. These areas are Blackpool, Bradford, Derby, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough, Stoke-on-Trent, and West Somerset. 

The DfE has also confirmed the relaunch of its Childcare Business Grant Scheme, which provides childminders or childminder agencies with grants of up to £1,000 to help them set up a childcare business.

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