Parents can now register for free childcare for nine-month-olds

Parents can now register for free childcare for 15 hours a week during term time for children from nine months old.

Child playing with blocks at nursery

 

Parents can now apply for a code for 15 hours of free childcare in term time for children who are aged between nine month olds and two years.

The free childcare is being extended to children over nine months from September. The government says parents should register early for a code and contact a provider to ensure there are places as some providers have long waiting lists. However, experts warn that those who register now will have to renew their code before September as codes have to be renewed every three months so applying now may create extra administration duties.

The deadline to apply for the first round of free childcare for children aged nine months is August 31st.

There are certain eligibility criteria for parents applying for the free childcare. Over the three-month period parents who live with the child must each expect to earn at least:

  • £2,380 before tax if aged 21 or over (equivalent to £183 per week)
  • £1,788 before tax if aged 18 to 20 (equivalent to £137 per week)
  • £1,331 before tax if parents are under 18 or an apprentice (equivalent to £102 per week)

This is the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week on average.

While extra help with childcare is welcomed, experts warn about the capacity of childcare providers to meet demand and point out the current staffing crisis within the sector. They say government funding for free childcare, particularly for three and four year olds, where underfunding has become a chronic problem, needs to be properly funded to cover the full cost of provision. The government predicts that 15,000 childcare places will be needed by this September, and a further 70,000 by the end of the two-year childcare rollout.

Purnima Tanuku, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association, said: “Supporting more young children to be able to access high quality early education and care places is very positive for their development and wellbeing. We are pleased that the Government is building in adequate time for parents to be able to register for the September places, which in turn will help childcare providers to be able to plan ahead. This includes a longer lead-in time for parents currently on parental leave to apply for their childcare account and temporary codes for those who won’t otherwise receive a code until later in the application timeframe. 

“One of the challenges of the expansion is that some parents may struggle to find a suitable place for their child, so we would urge them to speak with their local providers as soon as possible, as well as with their council.” 

However, Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, said the Alliance remains “entirely unconvinced that the government will be able to keep the huge promise it has made to parents”.

He stated: “Rather than pretending that today’s application launch is a cause for celebration, ministers should acknowledge the scale of the challenge ahead of them and take the action needed to safeguard the future of the sector – that is, adequate funding and a comprehensive workforce strategy. Only then can this policy have any hope of succeeding in the long term.” 

Parents can apply for a code through the Childcare Choices website.

 



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