Free childcare plans brought forward

Government plans to extend free childcare provisions for working families have been brought forward to 2016.

The Childcare Bill, officially announced in the Queen's Speech on 27 May, will double free childcare for working parents with 3 and 4 year-olds to 30 hours a week.

The provisions were originally planned to start in 2017 but will now be piloted from September 2016.

The extended provisions will be worth around £5,000 a year for each family, including the £2,500 of free childcare already available to parents.

The government estimates that around 600,000 families will benefit from the scheme.

The government will also increase the funding paid to childcare providers offering their services for free.

Katja Hall, deputy director general at the Confederation of British Industry, said:

"Increasing free childcare provision is an important step to enabling parents to pursue their careers, and to allowing businesses to retain skilled and talented employees."

However, Stephen Dunmore, interim chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, called on the government to elaborate on how the scheme will be funded:

"We await further detail on the much-needed reform to early years' funding. For 2 year-olds there is a need to review the funding formula to make sure that it meets the costs of providing high quality early education in expensive areas such as London.

"For 3 and 4 year-olds, more extensive reforms are needed to ensure the money is spent fairly and effectively. The government also needs to allocate enough capital funding to the number of places, and ensure that this money reaches childcare providers quickly."

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