New hidden childcare cost could hit parents due to loophole in Budget rules | The Sun

MILLIONS of working parents will be able to take advantage of a raft of new childcare measures – but a loophole could cost them.

The Government announced the launch of a new wraparound scheme to help primary school-aged children in England access care in school between 8am and 6pm in Wednesday's Budget.

The Treasury will provide £289million in "start-up funding" to schools and local authorities to help them test the scheme.

It will be nationally rolled out between the 2024-25 and 2025-26 academic years – but there's a catch.

Not only was there no mention of the funding being extended after 2025-26 but from then on the Treasury expects schools to charge parents for using the scheme after.

This could mean that some schools may still struggle to offer the help to parents in the long run.

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Wraparound childcare is a form of childcare that schools provide outside of normal school hours, such as breakfast clubs or after-school childcare.

It comes after a survey in March 2022 revealed that 57 of 300 schools included in the research couldn't provide wraparound childcare because of either little demand or lack of funding.

The average cost for one child to attend a breakfast club in the UK is £8.40 a day if they're not from a low-income household, according to TheSchoolRun.

This sets working parents back £411.60 on average per year during term time.

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The average cost for after-school clubs is £62.13 a week in the UK, which is nearly £2,423 a year during term time, according to Money Helper.

Be aware that certain low-income families claiming Universal Credit or benefits with children in primary school may be eligible for discounted wraparound childcare rates – so check with your local authority.

In his Spring Budget speech, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: "One third of primary schools do not offer childcare at both ends of the school day, even though for many people a job requires availability throughout the working day.

"To address this, we will fund schools and local authorities to increase supply of wraparound care so all school-age parents can drop their children off between 8am and 6pm.

"Our ambition is that all schools will start to offer a wraparound offer, either on their own or in partnership with other schools, by September 2026."

What other childcare changes are coming into force?

Speaking in the House of Commons, Jeremy Hunt said:

  • The number of kids per staff member in nurseries will rise from four to five, but the changes will be optional
  • Nurseries will receive more funding
  • Parents on Universal Credit will have childcare costs paid by the government upfront
  • The maximum amount families on Universal Credit can claim for childcare will be increased by hundreds of pounds
  • People who take a childminder job will receive £600 while agency workers who take a childminder job will receive £1,200 as part of a pilot scheme
  • 30 hours of free childcare will be extended to parents with children aged between nine months and two years old

Free childcare

Mr Hunt announced some parents with children aged nine months to two years old will receive free childcare.

But the help will only be offered to households where all adults are working at least 16 hours.

From April 2024, working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare per week.

This will be extended to working parents of nine-month-olds to two-year-olds from September 2024.

From September 2025, all eligible working parents of children aged nine months up to three years will be able to access 30 hours of free childcare a week.

Changes at nurseries

The Government will uplift the hourly funding rate paid to providers to cover the cost of extra free childcare for parents.

It said this will help providers to manage cost pressures as well as raise the quality of provision.

In total, the Government will give providers £204million in 2023-24 and £288million in 2024-25.

The Government also said staff-to-child ratios at nurseries will change.

For two-year-olds in England, there will be one member of staff for every five children as opposed to four, from September 2023.

Meanwhile, the Government said it will be offering new childminders a £600 bonus through a pilot scheme while those going through an agency will receive £1,200.

Changes to Universal Credit

Mr Hunt said parents on Universal Credit receiving help with childcare costs will receive payments up front rather than having to owe the money in arrears.

The Government will also increase the maximum amount parents on Universal Credit can claim to help with childcare costs.

Both changes will come into effect from this summer.

For those with one child, the rate will rise to £951 from £646 and for those with two children, it will increase to £1,630 from £1,108.

The changes to Universal Credit mark a huge win for The Sun's Make Universal Credit Work campaign, which has been calling for childcare support to be paid upfront and remove barriers stopping parents from getting back to work since December 2018.

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Currently, parents on the benefit can claim back 85% of their childcare costs, but they have to pay upfront first.

It means mums are forced out of work as it's not financially viable to stay in employment and have to fork out for childcare.

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