Parents could get cash handouts in govt plans to tackle sky-high childcare costs

8 October 2022, 00:23

Liz Truss is considering an overhaul to the subsidised childcare system which could see parents given government cash
Liz Truss is considering an overhaul to the subsidised childcare system which could see parents given government cash. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Liz Truss is said to be considering a shake-up of the childcare subsidy system whereby parents, rather than nurseries, would be handed Government cash to spend as they see fit.

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As it stands, all three and four-year olds in England are entitled to 15 hours' free childcare a week during term time, while some families can claim up to double that amount.

The funding for each place is currently sent straight to approved providers, such as nurseries or childminders.

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However the Prime Minister and her Education Secretary, Kit Malthouse, are reportedly weighing up proposals which would see the money paid directly to parents to invest as they wish.

The Department for Education (DfE) said "a wide range of options" are being explored to make childcare more accessible and affordable, but no decisions have yet been made.

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One option being considered is for parents to be given a flexible childcare budget in place of a paid-for space, with the Government potentially loosening the rules on which providers can offer the care and how old children need to be to qualify, the Times reports.

Alternatively, families could be given near-total freedom on how they spend the cash, potentially passing it on to grandparents helping out with childcare.

Labour's shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson branded the reported plans "half-baked".

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"Childcare is vital: for parents, for children, for our economy and for our society, but these half-baked plans show the Conservatives have no idea how to create a system that works for families," she said.

"Labour will create a modern childcare system that supports parents from the end of parental leave through to the end of primary school, starting with free breakfast clubs for every child in every primary school in England."

A DfE spokesperson said: "We are exploring a wide range of options to make childcare more accessible and affordable for parents, but no decisions have been made."

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The UK is facing a worsening cost of living crisis, with childcare one of many things adding up to put financial pressure on households.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng outlined a mini budget on September 23, with a number of tax-cutting measures aiming to alleviate the immediate cost of living squeeze.

But the plans sent the markets into turmoil, with the value of the pound plunging to a record low.

A focus group organised by LBC's News Agents with research group More in Common suggested that both Conservative and Labour voters were opposed to Mr Kwarteng's plans.

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Liz Truss's government is also having to deal with crises within its own ranks, after one of her trade ministers was the subject of a complaint of "serious misconduct" during the Tory party conference.

Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns had the whip withdrawn - but he has accused the party of jumping to conclusions.

"Earlier I received a call from the chief whip Wendy Morton," he tweeted.

"Ms Morton informed me that a complaint had been received about me and she had passed it to Conservative Campaign Headquarters to investigate.

"I was not given any information about the complaint nor was I asked to provide any information.

"On the basis of this complaint Ms Morton told me that the whip was being withdrawn and that I was standing down as trade minister. I will fully cooperate with the party's (inquiry) and look forward to clearing my name.

"I hope the party will be as quick to conduct their (inquiry) as they were to rush to judgment."