‘Too little too late’: Northampton reacts to 30 hours of free childcare per week being introduced for every child over nine months

The plan will take two-and-a-half years to roll out
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Following the announcement at the Spring Budget on Wednesday (March 15) that every child over nine months old will have access to 30 hours of free childcare per week, this newspaper sought reaction from nurseries and working parents.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, announced to the House of Commons that by September 2025 every working parent of children between the ages of nine months and five years will have access to 30 hours free childcare a week.

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This will apply to eligible households, where all adults are working at least 16 hours a week.

The scheme will apply to eligible households, where all adults are working at least 16 hours a week. Photo: Childbase Partnership.The scheme will apply to eligible households, where all adults are working at least 16 hours a week. Photo: Childbase Partnership.
The scheme will apply to eligible households, where all adults are working at least 16 hours a week. Photo: Childbase Partnership.

By April 2024, all working parents of two years old will have access to 15 hours of free childcare a week – which will benefit around half a million parents.

By September 2024, the 15 hours will be extended to all children from nine months old – which will benefit nearly one million eligible parents.

A year later, this offering will be extended to 30 hours a week for all.

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The Chancellor began by saying: “If we really want to remove the barriers to work, we need to go further for parents who have a child under three. For them, childcare remains just too expensive.

“I don’t want any parent with a child under five to be prevented from working if they want to, because it’s damaging to our economy and unfair mainly to women.”

The 30-hour free childcare offer is worth an average of £6,500 every year for a family with a two-year-old accessing 35 hours of childcare a week – reducing their costs by nearly 60 percent.

In an attempt to justify why it will take two-and-a-half years to completely roll this out, Chancellor Hunt said: “Because it is such a large reform, we will introduce it in stages to ensure there is enough supply in the market.”

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Here is what working parents and nurseries across Northampton had to say about the announcement…

Lucia Tonna, 28, mother to a two-year-old and founder of The Modern Art Mama:

“This should have been done sooner. It makes no sense as to why it was from three years old in the first place, and not from nine months.

“It’s great that it is now being introduced but there are a lot of us that missed out.

“My son Archer is turning three soon and I have paid thousands for childcare because we were not eligible.

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“We’re looking to move to a different house next year and we haven’t been able to yet as I’m only working part-time – now alongside my business.

“There was no point in me working full time hours for it all to be spent on childcare. This has delayed us as a family because I haven’t been able to earn as much.

“It has set us back and it’s frustrating.

“When it comes into action, it will be great – especially for parents with younger children. I know parents who will benefit from this, but for us it’s too little too late.

“What is currently in place has prevented me from working more hours and I’m only just starting my career now Archer is older.

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“A mother’s career stops until you can put them in full-time childcare, which for most is four years old.

“Mothers are the children's go to and we raise them from birth. With all families I know, it is the woman who has to give up her career, or put it on hold, while the child grows up.”

Emma Rooney, chief executive officer at Childbase Partnership:

This statement has been issued on behalf of Nene Valley Day Nursery, in Cliftonville.

“We welcome any initiative that promises more support for parents in accessing quality early years care and education.

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“Unfortunately, the leaked information in advance of the Budget announcement raised expectations. Like parents in all our nurseries in England, we are very disappointed the much-needed financial support is neither enough nor coming sooner.

“As always, it is the detail in how this funding will be rolled out that will reveal the long-term benefits.

“As a training provider – through The Childbase Partnership Academy of Excellence – we look forward to hearing more about the proposed ‘returnships’ for the over fifties.”

What our readers think…

Our readers also took to social media to share their opinions, with one mother displeased to learn the scheme will not be completely rolled out until September 2025.

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“My child will be in year one then, it’s pointless to me,” the comment read.

Another says it is “too little too late” and “parents need this now”, which fellow parents were in agreement with.

“2025? Really? That’s not much use to anyone at the moment,” read the final comment.