As a working Mum or Dad, having the ability to tap into free childcare from the government is always a benefit. In 2017, the government will double the number of free childcare hours from 15 to 30, which is a nice plus for working parents with three or four year olds across the country. If you are considering going back to work, training or voluntary placement, following a career break, this guide from Career-mums will help you to work out ‘what’s what’ for the new Government nursery hours.
There are, as one would expect, a few catches to the “free” nursery services. While qualifying families will be able to use the 30 hours per week, it is not offered for the full 52 weeks of the year, which is a bit confusing. Instead, the free 30 hours are offered during the school term, so there will be only 38 weeks of the free coverage provided, leaving families on their own for the balance of 14 weeks.
To get around this, there may be the option to reduce the maximum number of hours used per week, so perhaps use only 20 per week rather than the allotted maximum of 30. This would provide your family with some ability to adjust the number of weeks and still come out to the same approved number of 1140 hours across the year.
Parents that may be able to accommodate for this lower per week use of the time and with the flexibility in their work days will have a greater ability to be creative with scheduling.
There are some rules for families to be able to increase from the current 15 hours to the new 30 hours of free childcare. Keep in mind that everyone will still be eligible for the current 15 hours with no additional eligibility requirements.
To qualify, the parent or parents much earn an average weekly minimum that is equivalent to 16 hours at the current National Minimum or National Living wage. In addition, both parents have to work or, in the case of a single parent, he or she must be working. The child also has to be three or four years of age at the commencement of the scheme in your area.
Each parent must have an income of less than £100,000 annually, and you must currently reside in England. Parents meeting these guidelines can pre-apply online for services with the programme to be in place for September of 2017.
For working families, this will certainly help with costs of childcare. However, just how the system will work and how the nurseries, playgroups, pre-school, childminders and Sure Start Children’s Centres that are approved childcare options for the scheme will accommodate the doubling of hours is still not completely clear. In some of the pilot programs across the country, the nurseries and childminders have added fees, which may add some costs to the programme depending on the individual provider.
Ideally, as soon as possible, pre-register for the service at the government website. There will be additional steps to complete the registration and have your child or children assigned to a childminder, but this is the first step in the process and will allow you to get started.