Free nursery hours ‘could be axed’ under Liz Truss’s radical plans to shakeup childcare provision

Free nursery hours 'could be axed' under Liz Truss's radical plans to shakeup childcare provision 2
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Free nursery hours ‘could be axed’ under Liz Truss’s radical plans to shakeup childcare provision that will see ‘Government cash handed directly to parents’ instead of approved childcare or nursery providers

  • Ministers planning reforms to make childcare more affordable to boost economy
  • Early years groups expressed concerns that it could result in ‘two-tier system’
  • Parents might be handed Government money directly to spend as they see fit
  • As it stands, funding is sent straight to approved providers, such as nurseries
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Free nursery hours for young children could be scrapped as part of a major review of childcare provision.

Ministers are understood to be planning reforms to make the system more affordable and boost the economy by helping parents return to the office.

The provision of 15 to 30 hours free care for children between three and four years old is thought to be part of the review. 

The new proposals could instead see parents being handed Government cash directly to spend on childcare as they see fit. 

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Sources stressed none of the ideas under consideration were about withdrawing support and the review was not a money-saving exercise. 

But early years groups reacted with fury, urging the Government not to make ‘rash’ decisions.

Prime Minister Liz Truss is planning a major review of childcare provision which could see free nursery hours for young children scrapped

Prime Minister Liz Truss is planning a major review of childcare provision which could see free nursery hours for young children scrapped

Neil Leitch of the Early Years Alliance said: ‘Every child has a right to care and education, regardless of their circumstances – and we would be deeply concerned that such an approach would result in a two-tier system.’

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Parents took to Mumsnet to share their outrage. One wrote: ‘I have no idea how we’d cope as a family if this happened, coupled with… the cost of living.’ 

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We are exploring a wide range of options… but no decisions have been made.’

The proposed changes to childcare, which are still at an early stage, come as MPs prepare to return to Parliament for the first time since the turmoil caused by the mini-budget.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister faced a Cabinet revolt over plans to uprate benefits in line with earnings rather than inflation next year, meaning a real-terms reduction.

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On Tuesday, Commons leader Penny Mordaunt – who engaged in a bad-tempered battle against Ms Truss for the leadership this summer – said it ‘makes sense’ to increase benefits in line with inflation.

Under new plans, parents could be handed Government cash directly to spend on childcare as they see fit. (Stock image)

Under new plans, parents could be handed Government cash directly to spend on childcare as they see fit. (Stock image)

The Prime Minister had already been forced to u-turn on her plans to scrap the 45p rate of tax for people earning more than £150,000-a-year after it became clear that dozens of MPs would refuse to back the move in the Commons.

In Ms Truss’s latest attempt to drive economic growth, it is understood that parents could be handed Government cash directly to spend on childcare as they see fit. 

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As it stands, funding for three and four-year-olds is currently sent straight to approved providers, such as nurseries or childminders.

But 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 Times said one option 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.

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

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