During Education Questions, Robin Walker MP asked the Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing questions about the level of funding for childcare providers, especially with the challenges of the increase in the National Living Wage and increased business rates.
Robin is a passionate supporter for increased childcare provision and has campaigned for the Government to provide greater funding to the sector. As part of the election for the position of Chair of the Education Select Committee, Robin committed to beginning an inquiry into support for childcare and the early years, which is now well underway. He spoke in debates ahead of the budget to press the case for more investment in childcare and early years education.
In the Spring Budget, the Government announced a huge step up in funding for childcare and the early years including its intention to extend the provision of free childcare to one- and two-year-olds, which will begin to be phased in over the next few years. Robin welcomed this announcement as well as additional funding for the existing three and four year old entitlements, and made clear that as well as its educational benefits, it will be vital in providing parents with the freedom to work if they wish. However he and his committee have heard from nurseries and other providers about immediate pressures they are facing and Robin has repeatedly raised these with ministers.
Today Robin asked:
‘Can the Minister update the House on the state of funding for the childcare sector and whether that will allow them to meet the inflationary pressures they are seeing? Will she address with the Treasury some of the unavoidable costs such as the increase in the National Living Wage and the business rate increases faced by the sector?’
The Minister, Claire Coutinho, replied:
‘We use feedback from the sector to come up with the rates, and about 10,000 providers were surveyed, and as we progress, we will continue to talk with the sector and work closely with them. There has been positivity particularly around the one- and two-year-olds rate we set out, as well as the £200 million we are putting in this year and the £288 million we will put in next year.’
This funding will be allocated by the Department for Education through local Councils. In each of the past three years, the Department for Education has spent over £3.5 billion on early education entitlements to support families with the cost of childcare. Improving the cost, choice and availability of childcare for working parents is important for this Government and it is continuing to explore a wide range of options to achieve this.
These changes are creating a fairer system that better provides the affordable and high-quality childcare needed to give children all over the country the best opportunity to reach their full potential.