Amidst a worsening cost-of-living crisis which has seen many people in the UK forced to choose between heating and eating, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has today delivered his Spring Budget to the Commons and, amongst changes to Universal Credit and Corporation Tax, he has laid out plans to support parents with childcare costs.
In his Spring Budget speech, Hunt shared his detailed plan on how the government will support both parents and childcare providers. Here's what you need to know about how this will impact you...
The Spring Budget and childcare costs
Speaking to the Commons, Hunt announced that the 30 hours of free weekly childcare (that is currently available to working parents of three and four-year-olds) will be extended to cover all children from the age of nine months. Hunt noted that this provision will only apply if both parents are working, and will only be available during term-time, which accounts for 38 weeks of the year. The aim is that the additional support with help more parents – particularly women – get back to work after having a child.
As for the support offered to childcare suppliers, Hunt says he will pilot an incentive payment to prospective childminders – £600 for those joining the profession independently, and £1200 for those joining through an agency.
The Chancellor also confirmed that he'll increase funding to nurseries meaning that from September (and across the next year) this will go up from £204m to £288m.
In addition, Hunt revealed that the government has plans to provide more funding to schools and local authorities so that they can offer 'wraparound care' for school-age children. This will mean parents of school-age children can drop their kids off between 8am and 6pm, and Hunt's hope is that all schools will be offering this by September 2026.
Hunt's announcement comes just a few months after the government's proposal to make childcare more 'affordable' was met with criticism, but there has been a largely positive response to today's plan, with some branding it 'a lifeline to working mothers'.
'The extension of free childcare announced in today’s Budget is welcome news for working parents,' Alice Haine, a personal finance analyst at Bestinvest, told Cosmopolitan UK. 'These measures will go some way to help prevent women in particular from dropping out of the workforce to care for children.'
Haine went on: 'Getting women back into work is essential to support growth and ensure household bills can be paid on time. It is also important to advance women’s careers and protect their finances from the gender pay gap and smaller pension pots they typically have compared to men in retirement.'
If you're struggling with your bills, you can speak to a number of charities – including Turn2us and the Independent Food Aid Network – set up to help those during the cost-of-living crisis, as well as debt-management charities like Step Change.