Call for post-Brexit clarity on 30-hour childcare

Jess Brown
Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Early years organisations have called on the government to provide clarity on flagship plans to extend free childcare to 30 hours a week in the aftermath of the UK's decision to leave the European Union.

Organisations have called for clarity from government on early years policies. Picture: Lucie Carlier
Organisations have called for clarity from government on early years policies. Picture: Lucie Carlier

A trial of the expanded provision, which will see free entitlement for three- and four-year-olds doubled from 15 to 30 hours a week, is due to begin in September before the scheme is extended country-wide from September 2017.

But a leading organisation in the sector has called for clarity on how preparations for the policy will proceed in light of Prime Minister David Cameron stating that he will stand down by October in the wake of the EU referendum result.

Yesterday CYP Now reported that publication of the government's life chances strategy, which was due to feature the government's policy in relation to children's centres, has been put on hold. 

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said it is a time of "great uncertainty" for the early years sector.

"Given reports that the government's much-promoted life chances strategy is being placed on hold, we would be very concerned about any further delays on the development of the [30 hours] scheme, and in particular, the promised national early years funding formula.

"Both providers and parents need clarity on how things stand on this as soon as possible, and we hope that the Department for Education will provide further information on the state of play as soon as possible," he said.

Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, said it is a "worrying time" for the future of the early years sector. She said a British exit from the European Union could impact on the ability of early years staff to recruit workers.

"There is a very real possibility that the end of freedom of movement of people across the EU will provide additional challenges to a sector already struggling to recruit staff to provide high-quality childcare to children and families.

"We call on government to deliver on its promises for early years and to see immediate action on the much-anticipated workforce strategy, the early years funding formula consultation, and to continue the important work to deliver 30 hours of free early education to eligible families from next year."

Denise Burke, chair of Poppy and Jacks nursery group, said there could be wider implications for the sector if parents cannot afford as much childcare if the economic situation worsens as a result of leaving the EU.

"There is uncertainty on how Brexit and the likelihood of a general election later in the year will impact on the implementation of the 30 hours," she said.

"There is uncertainly over jobs and the possibility of a housing crash, all of which means parents' finances will be stretched and we know how this impacts on the nursery sector, affecting financial stability and investment."

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