‘Lower hours eligibility criteria to increase access to free childcare’

A report from the Social Mobility Commission calls for a change to the eligibility criteria for the 30 hours free childcare offer.

Child with painted hands


The 30 hours offer of free childcare for three and four year olds should be extended to those who earn the equivalent of eight hours per week at minimum wage as a first step to making it available to more parents, according to a new report.

The  Social Mobility Commission’s State of the Nation report also calls for a national marketing campaign to promote the revised 30-hour childcare offer, working with local authorities to specifically target low-income households.

The report finds that inequality is now entrenched in Britain from birth to work and calls on the government to take urgent action to help close the privilege gap.

It looks at early childhood, schools, universities, further education and work and finds that social mobility has been stagnant for the last four years, with 60% of those from professional backgrounds in professional jobs, compared to only 34% of those from working class backgrounds.

It states that the better off are nearly 80% more likely to end up in professional jobs than those from a working-class background and that, even when people from disadvantaged backgrounds land a professional job, they earn 17% less than their privileged colleagues. Working-class women in professional jobs are paid 35% less than men from more affluent backgrounds, says the report, which also states that 49% of the poorest adults have received no training since leaving school, compared to 20% of the richest.

On childcare, the report states that the most disadvantaged families are least likely to be aware of or benefit from the offer of 30 hours free childcare for three and four year olds. The offer is only currently for the children of families where one parent works for 16 hours or more a week, which the report says means that the middle classes benefit most.

The commission calls on the government to extend the offer to all those parents working eight hours per week as a first step to giving it to more low income families. The report also reveals that 45% of childcare workers are on benefits or tax credits.

Among other recommendations relating to childcare, schools, higher education and work, the report calls for government departments to lead the way by becoming accredited voluntary living wage employers.

Meanwhile, figures released by the Office for National Statistics show wage growth may be affecting social mobility with people’s reluctance to move jobs due to economic uncertainty driving wages down. The statistics showed only 10.9 per cent of workers changed their employer in both 2017 and 2018. Changing jobs is one of the main ways to secure a pay rise.

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