Parents can apply for free childcare for nine month olds from 12th May

The Government has announced that parents can apply for 15 hours free childcare for nine months olds from 12th May, but providers remain ‘unconvinced’ about the roll-out.

Child playing with blocks at nursery

 

The Government has announced that parents will be able to register for 15 free hours a week of childcare in England for children aged nine months and over from 12th May, although providers are unconvinced on the sector’s ability to deliver due to underfunding and staffing crises.

The offer begins in September, following the roll-out of 15 hours a week free childcare for two year olds in April. By September 2025 the Government wants to see parents of children from nine months old onwards being able to access free childcare for up to 30 hours a week.

Amid concerns about nursery closures and plummeting childminder numbers, the Government says it is also taking steps to increase childminder numbers. A new consultation launched today will ask childminders, parents, providers and local authorities for their ideas on how government can further support more childminders to join and stay in the profession. Proposed changes include local authorities paying childminders monthly if they request it so they can better manage their finances.

The application system requires parents to reconfirm their eligibility for Tax Free childcare and 15/30 government-funded hours childcare every three months. Parents who are already claiming Tax Free childcare and need to reconfirm their eligibility between 1st April and 12th May, prior to the new offer opening, will automatically be issued a code in the post by HMRC soon after applications open.

Parents can apply for codes for September until 31st August and should check their eligibility at childcarechoices.gov.uk, read up on the application process on the Education Hub, and are being advised to reach out to their local provider to secure a physical place for their child ahead of time.

The National Day Nurseries Association welcomed the investment and said it was good that the Government was communicating early about the plans. They said recent research with nurseries shows that 75% said they had waiting lists for children under three and 56% said there was unmet demand in their local area.

Chief executive Purnima Tanuku said: “While it is important for parents to ask about available future places locally, we would urge them to be aware that childcare settings will be prioritising supporting the delivery of places for the April roll-out, so they may not hear back straight away.”

Neil Leitch from the Early Years Alliance said that, while the government may claim to be addressing the staffing and funding challenges facing the sector the Alliance remains “entirely unconvinced”. Its research  shows that more than two thirds of settings are already full even before the first phase of the childcare expansion rolls out in April.

He added: “The only way that this policy will come even close to being workable in practice is if these longstanding funding, capacity and staffing issues are properly addressed. Confirming when families will be able to apply for the next phase of the entitlement will be entirely pointless if early years settings don’t have the capacity and support to be able to deliver the places families need.”

The Alliance also commented on the childminder consultation, saying funding is the key issue. It is ‘extremely disappointed’ that it doesn’t include plans to allow childminding professionals to claim early entitlement funding for related children and that it waters down requirements for childminding agencies, but it welcomed plans to encourage monthly payments from local authorities.



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