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Government announces plan to double free childcare allowance

David Cameron is to offer qualifying parents 30 hours of free childcare a week, doubling the current allowance

The government has announced it is to double the free childcare hours available to parents, from 15 hours per week to 30 for three and four-year-olds. 

Currently, all three and four-year-olds in England are entitled to 570 hours of free early education or childcare a year.

The Childcare Bill, announced in last week's Queen's Speech, would double this for working parents with a household income of less than £150,000. However, it is not clear yet how many hours you will have to work in order to qualify.

But is the government building up to a massive funding shortfall? 

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “We warmly welcome the news that the government will be launching a formal review into childcare funding rates this year.

“That said, as with all things, the devil is in the detail.

“Given that the childcare extension plans have been costed at just £350m a year - a figure that our research suggests is around a quarter of what is actually needed - we are concerned that the government is still significantly underestimating the scale of the existing funding shortfall.”

>> Find out more advice about your childcare options

Leading expert and founder of Parental Choice, Sarah-Jane Butler, who has worked with various Government policy groups aiming to improve childcare nationally, commented: 

“I think the idea makes a good headline but even now the 15 hours of childcare available is not exactly free as nurseries and child-minders can't provide the quality and safety parents and children deserve for the amount the Government provides. So parents shouldn't be misled. There will still be costs to pay. 

“Plus it also begs the question what does one do for children under three years old? When women are looking to return to work after maternity leave, one of the biggest factors is the cost of childcare. Taking three years out of the work market can have a big impact on home finances as well as career prospects.”

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