Date set for new childcare offer applications announced

Applications for the first wave of the rollout of free childcare for working parents will open on 2 January, the government has announced today (29 November).

From January, eligible working parents of two-year-olds will be able to register to access 15 hours free childcare per week from April 2024. The recommended time to register is between mid-January and the end of February.

As part of the investment, the government said that further increases to government funding rates for childcare are also being confirmed today. The government said it is investing over £400 million to deliver a significant uplift to local authority hourly rates, to ensure enough places are available wherever they are needed around the country.

National average hourly rates paid by the government will be £11.22 for under twos, £8.28 for two-year-olds, and £5.88 for three- and four-year-olds from April. 

From tomorrow (30 November), funding will also be available for new childminders who join the profession or who completed their registration on or after 15th March 2023, or those re-registering at least 12 months after the cancellation of a previous registration. 

The government said there will be £600 available for those who choose to register with Ofsted and £1,200 for those who choose to register with a childminder agency.

This is designed to support thousands of new childminders to enter the sector and create new, quality, childcare settings across the country to further increase choice and flexibility for families.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “Our fantastic childcare offer is going to start supporting eligible families in less than six months’ time, and I want to make sure that parents and providers are prepared.

“From April next year, eligible working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of government-funded childcare a week, making sure parents no longer have to choose between a career and a family, and doubling down on this government’s commitment to getting more people into work and growing the economy. 

“I know the delivery of this transformation is no easy task, which is why I am pushing ahead with increased funding rates across the country and up to £1,200 for new childminders, knocking down barriers to recruiting and retaining the talented staff that provide such wonderful care for our children.”

The government said it is also offering ongoing support for the over two million parents on Universal Credit, many of whom could now also be eligible for up to £951 a month if they have one child and £1,630 if they have two or more children, to help cover the costs of their childcare bills.

Chief executive of PACEY (Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years), Helen Donohoe, said: “We know that the ambitious plans for the expansion of early education and childcare will need to see growth right across our sector, and not least in the number of childminders.

“We therefore welcome the launch of the start-up grants scheme, for new and returning childminders, and look forward to working with all providers as more and more parents come on board.’’

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