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Yes, that’s right, the UK Government used its Spring Budget 2023 to announce reforms to its childcare support with an extension of free childcare in England. Childcare has long been one of the biggest household overheads for working parents and the Government aims to increase its free childcare provision to get more parents back to work and grow the economy.

If you’d like to know more about this development, we’ve tried to answer the most common queries about the package based on the information that’s already in the public domain.

What age range will the new free childcare package cover?

The new free childcare package is designed to cover children aged nine months old to four years old with eligible working parents by September 2025.

How many weeks of the year will the free childcare cover?

The free childcare package is applicable across 38 weeks of the year. It does not include weeks outside of school term time. However, some providers may allow you to ‘stretch’ the free hours across 52 weeks if you need to.

Note: It’s also possible that childcare providers will charge for additional costs such as food and day trips.

When will the roll-out of additional free childcare begin?

The Government has outlined the following timetable for the roll-out of free childcare to children aged between nine months old and two years old:

Start Date Free Childcare
April 2024 Eligible working parents of two-year-old children will be able to claim 15 hours a week of free childcare.
September 2024 The 15 hours of free weekly childcare will be extended to all eligible working parents with children over the age of nine months.
September 2025 All eligible working parents with children aged nine months to four years old will be entitled to up to 30 hours of free weekly childcare.

The Government says the staggered roll-out will provide childcare providers with sufficient time to prepare for the changes, whilst ensuring supply can meet the increased demand.

On the supply front, the Government is also lifting the staff-to-child ratio from September 2023. This autumn, one member of staff will be allowed to look after five children, up from four children at present. This rule has already been applied in Scottish childcare settings.

The Government is also committing additional funding to boost ‘wraparound care’, giving working parents with school-age children enhanced access to local childcare between the hours of 8am-6pm. This includes the provision of breakfast and after-school clubs.

How much different is the new package to the existing free childcare provisions?

At the time of writing, free childcare or early education is only offered to three and four-year-olds in England. All parents receive up to 15 hours of free childcare per week, rising to 30 hours per week for eligible working families. There’s also 15 hours of free childcare offered weekly for disadvantaged two-year-olds.

How do I find out if I’m eligible for free childcare?

Currently, working parents who earn less than £100,000 per annum combined and work over 16 hours a week are eligible to claim for 30 hours free childcare per week for children aged three to four.

The expansion of this scheme means that working parents earning less than £100,000 a year combined and work over 16 hours a week can get 30 hours of free childcare for children over the age of nine months from September 2025.

If you’d like to double-check your eligibility for the Government’s free childcare scheme or indeed the tax-free childcare provision, which is also open to the self-employed, click here to visit the Childcare Choices website to find out if your household qualifies.

Explore the full extent of the Spring Budget 2023

Our in-depth summary of the Chancellor’s Spring Budget outlines the main tax and spending changes relevant to you and your business.

Date published 23 Mar 2023 | Last updated 23 Mar 2023

This article is intended to inform rather than advise and is based on legislation and practice at the time. Taxpayer’s circumstances do vary and if you feel that the information provided is beneficial it is important that you contact us before implementation. If you take, or do not take action as a result of reading this article, before receiving our written endorsement, we will accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred.

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