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UK Government's Extension of Free Childcare Targeted Towards Higher-Income Families, Says Report

UK Government's Extension of Free Childcare Targeted Towards Higher-Income Families, Says Report

The UK government's plan to extend free childcare for working parents, announced in the budget, is unfairly targeted towards higher-income families, according to a report by Coram and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
The report argues that the changes risk widening the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, as children whose parents do not work will be left behind.

From 2025, working parents will be entitled to 30 hours of childcare for children aged nine months, but the report suggests that this will not benefit all children equally and is not enough to support disadvantaged children.

The report calls for 15 government-funded hours per week for all two-year-olds and 30 hours for all three- and four-year-olds, regardless of parental income, as well as investment in the quality of early education.

The changes will be phased in for households in England where the parent or parents each earn at least £152 a week, on average, but less than £100,000 a year.

The report suggests that the current childcare system is increasingly focused on helping parents work, rather than prioritizing early education to support children's development.

The attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged children has widened, and the government-funded hours in childcare were originally introduced to narrow this gap.

The UK government currently provides 15 hours of free childcare for low-income families with two-year-olds, a year before all children become eligible for free childcare.

However, the funding does not cover providers' costs for meals, extended hours, and registration fees, which can act as a barrier for low-income families.

Additionally, many nurseries, particularly in poorer areas, have a waiting list for government-funded places due to a lack of staff.

In the spring budget, the chancellor announced that families on universal credit will have childcare costs paid upfront and the monthly limit on childcare claims will rise from £646 to £951.
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