The Scottish government is to double its spending on free early learning and childcare to £840 million per year by 2021-22. This will give parents an entitlement to 30 hours or a total of 1140 hours from August 2020.
This will make a huge difference to the ability of working parents to combine careers and childcare. The cost of private childcare has often been prohibitive, consuming sometimes more than half of the income earned by a working parent. At the SNP conference, the First Minister described this as a ‘transformational’ change.
Every three and four year-old and eligible two year-olds will be entitled to this funding worth around £4 500 per year or £350 per month.
In England, as far as I can see, the 30 hours offer is not universal. Both parents must be working or the sole parent must be working in a lone-parent family and they must earn a minimum of the equivalent of 16 hours per week at the national living or minimum wage. There is a complex online application form and by the end of August, only just over 50% of parents had applied.