Distribution of proposed childcare funding expansion
The well publicised Treasury policy announced in March of expanding the level of funded childcare to include 30 hours for all children between the age of nine months and 5 years is starting to set in motion. The changes will be staggered, with the first level of expansion being 15 hours free childcare for all 2-year-olds coming in April 2024. The correct distribution of funding is crucial for the health of the sector.
The Department for Education has expressed that it will be undertaking a consultation process with the childcare sector to help understand how the funding for the expansion needs to be distributed. There will also be consultations around the funding rates for 2024/25 in the coming weeks. As of yet, there has been little information about the number of and the timings of any consultations. There is scepticism throughout the sector that the consultations will be beneficial or even listened to.
The Early Years Alliance highlighted the Government’s recent track record as a reason for scepticism after ignoring the recommendations provided in regard to the ratios in childcare settings. They also criticised the fact that consultations would’ve been much more beneficial before announcing such a drastic policy change. The NDNA were also cautious about the process and called for more action to be taken to address all issues in the sector if the Government want to deliver the expansion.
Before the expansion is complete there will be a general election, likely to be early 2024, and if current opinion polls stay as they are then the Government is likely to be in Labour’s control. It is likely they will implement a similar scheme if they gain control by giving all families access to ‘high quality, affordable childcare’ but there are limited details about how they will achieve this. However, opinion polls are not overly reliable, and the Conservatives have closed the gap in recent weeks so it remains to be seen see which party is stronger nearer the election time. Either way, a properly funded expansion of free childcare is crucial for the childcare sector.