Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What you need to do

Read the latest information from Parliament about Coronavirus

Petition Commission an independent review of childcare funding and affordability

We have the second most expensive childcare system in the world. A full time place costs, on average, £14,000 per year, making it completely unaffordable for many families. Parents are forced to leave their jobs or work fewer hours, which has a negative impact on the economy and on child poverty.

More details

Childcare workers are paid so badly that 1 in 10 are officially living in poverty. Meanwhile, a lack of funding has resulted in 2,087 childcare settings closing in England in the first 3 months of 2021 when provision was already low. Without good quality, affordable childcare the 'levelling up' agenda will fail. An independent review would explore what the Government needs to do to ensure we have a childcare sector that works for families, children and the economy.

Sign this petition

113,582 signatures

Show on a map

100,000

Parliament debated this topic

This topic was debated on 13 September 2021

Watch the petition 'Commission an independent review of childcare funding and affordability' being debated

Government responded

This response was given on 23 June 2021

The Government is not currently planning a review of the childcare system. Support is available to help with childcare costs, and the Government monitors the sustainability of childcare providers.

We know that the cost of childcare is a key concern for parents which is why the government has made an unprecedented investment in childcare over the past decade.

All three- and four-year-olds in England are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare each week, providing children with high-quality early education and helping parents to return to work. Disadvantaged families in England are also eligible for 15 hours of free early education a week for their two- year-old children.

30 hours free childcare was introduced in England in September 2017 and is an entitlement for working parents of three- and four-year-olds, benefitting around 345,700 children in January 2020. It aims to help working parents with the costs of childcare so they can take up paid work if they want to or can work additional hours. To be eligible, both parents, or a single parent, must earn the equivalent of 16 hours a week at national minimum/ living wage (for parents aged 23 or over, this would work out at just over £7,400 per year) and less than £100,000 per year.

All the department’s entitlements provide free early education for parents across 38 weeks of the year. They can also be “stretched” if parents wish to use fewer hours over more weeks and this is an option their childcare provider offers.

We have spent over £3.5bn in each of the past three years on our early education entitlements and the government continues to support families with their childcare costs. The Chancellor announced on 25 November 2020 a £44 million investment for 2021-22, for local authorities to increase hourly rates paid to childcare providers for the government’s free childcare entitlement offers.

In addition to the free early education entitlements, the government offers Tax-Free Childcare for children from 0-11 years old, or up to 16 if disabled. This scheme means that for every £8 parents pay their provider via an online account, the government will pay £2 – up to a maximum contribution of £2,000 per child each year, or £4,000 if disabled.

Working parents on a low income may also be eligible for help with up to 85% of their childcare costs through Universal Credit Childcare. This is subject to a monthly limit of £646 for one child or £1108 for two or more children, payable in arrears.

Data published by Ofsted shows that the number of childcare places available in providers on the Early Years Register as of August 2020 has remained broadly stable since August 2015.

The Department currently offers a range of support to early years settings during the pandemic, such as the furlough scheme (where settings have experienced a drop in either their income from parents or government), Business Rates Relief Nurseries Discount and support from the Recovery Loan Scheme.

As childminders are usually self-employed, they may benefit from the continuation of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.
Further information regarding business support packages can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support

We are committed to supporting the sector to develop a workforce with the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience to deliver high quality early education and childcare. We are investing £20m in high quality, evidence-based professional development for practitioners in targeted disadvantaged areas.

In February 2021, we announced a further £10m for a pre-reception early language recovery programme to support early years staff in settings, and in June, we announced a further investment of up to £153 million over three academic years, including funding for training early years staff to support the very youngest children’s learning and development.

We are not currently planning a review of early years funding, but we continue to evaluate the support on offer and endeavour to provide support to both parents and providers to ensure the sustainability of the sector.

Department for Education

Other parliamentary business

Share your experiences of maternity, parental leave and childcare during covid-19

MPs on the Petitions Committee want to know what's changed for new parents one year on from their report into the Impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave, published in July 2020. 

The Committee is also considering how the pandemic has affected the cost and provision of childcare, in response to the petition you signed.

Share your experiences through this short survey: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/8PXAU4/

The deadline for responses is 12noon on Monday 28 June. Your responses will be shared with the Committee to help inform their work on this issue. Your responses will be anonymous.

Read a summary of the Committee's report: https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/how-has-maternity-and-parental-leave-been-impacted-by-coronavirus-/index.html

What is the Petitions Committee?

The Petitions Committee is a cross-party group of MPs appointed by the House of Commons to consider e-petitions and public (paper) petitions.

Find out more about the Petitions Committee: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/membership/

Follow the Committee on Twitter for real-time updates on its work: https://www.twitter.com/hocpetitions

Petitions Committee announce follow-up session on the impact of covid-19 on new parents

The Petitions Committee will hear from petition creators and expert witnesses on the impact of covid-19 on new parents and childcare providers on Wednesday 14 July.

Watch the session (on Wednesday 14 July from 9.30am): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lERhUe98ASU&feature=youtu.be

The evidence session marks one year since the publication of the Committee's report into the impact of covid-19 on maternity and parental leave.

Read a summary of the Committee’s full report: https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/how-has-maternity-and-parental-leave-been-impacted-by-coronavirus-/index.html

The session will investigate what progress has been made against the problems identified and recommendations made to the Government in the report.

Witnesses include petition signatories, and representatives from campaign and sector bodies Pregnant then Screwed, the Early-Years Alliance, Adoption-UK and others. A full list of witnesses is available on the Petitions Committee website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/156378/committee-announces-evidence-session-on-the-impact-of-covid19-on-new-parents/

Survey on the impact of covid-19 on new parents

Last month, we asked you to share your experiences through an online survey to help inform the session. We also asked the experiences of Mumsnet users. Key findings from this engagement include:

  • Access to baby and toddler groups, which provide vital support for both parents and children, remains limited even as restrictions ease. 68% of respondents told us they strongly disagreed with the statement that “I have been able to access baby and toddler groups over the past 12 months”
  • 77% of respondents told us they strongly agree or agree with the statement that “The cost of childcare has prevented me from getting the kind of childcare I need”
  • 72% of respondents who said they ran or worked for a childcare setting told us they expected the pandemic to have a major or moderate effect on their setting’s long-term financial sustainability

You can read a full summary of what new parents and childcare providers told us on our website: https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/37718/pdf/

What are evidence sessions?

Evidence sessions are open meetings with experts, officials or people with personal experiences with the topic being examined. Evidence sessions help select committees like the Petitions Committee to understand how laws and Government policies are working in the real world, and what needs to change to make things better.

Further information

Find out more about the role of the Petitions Committee: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/role/

Follow the Committee on Twitter for real-time updates on its work: https://www.twitter.com/hocpetitions

Find out more about select committees: https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/committees/select/

MPs hear evidence on covid-19 and new parents

MPs from the Petitions Committee held an evidence session with experts, campaigners and petition signatories on the impact of covid-19 on new parents and childcare providers on Wednesday 14 July.
 
During the session, the Committee heard that parents’ circumstances, such as being unable to find appropriate childcare, affected their ability to return to work as planned.
 
They also heard that providers of baby and toddler classes are finding that children coming to class are not as developed as they would expect, particularly socially.
 
If you missed it, watch the debate: https://youtu.be/lERhUe98ASU?t=499
 
Alternatively, you can read a transcript of the session on the Parliament website: https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/2561/default/
 

Survey

Ahead of the session, the MPs on the Committee asked for your experiences through an online survey. More than 8,700 new parents and childcare providers responded.
 
Respondents told MPs that the pandemic has significantly affected access to baby and toddler groups. They said that the cost of childcare is prohibitively expensive, and that childcare settings expect the pandemic to have had a moderate to major effect on their long-term financial sustainability.

Read an interactive summary of the survey: https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/lockdown-impact-on-new-parents-petitions/index.html
 

The House Magazine

Following the evidence session, the Chair of the Petitions Committee Catherine McKinnell MP wrote an article for the House Magazine about what the Committee learned from petition creators and expert witnesses. Read the article: https://www.politicshome.com/thehouse/article/government-risks-failing-babies-and-parents-struggling-to-cope-during-covid

Impact of covid-19 and maternity and parental leave: one year on

The evidence session marked one year since the publication of the Committee's report into the impact of covid-19 on maternity and parental leave, a summary of which you can read here: https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/how-has-maternity-and-parental-leave-been-impacted-by-coronavirus-/index.html

What are evidence sessions?

Evidence sessions are open meetings where MPs examine experts, officials or people with personal experiences of a topic. Evidence sessions help select committees like the Petitions Committee to understand how laws and Government policies are working in the real world, and what needs to change to make things better.
 

Further information

Find out more about the role of the Petitions Committee: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/role/
Follow the Committee on Twitter for real-time updates on its work: https://www.twitter.com/hocpetitions
Find out more about select committees: https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/committees/select/

The Government must review the funding and affordability of childcare, says Petitions Committee

On Thursday 7 October, the Petitions Committee published its report on the impact of covid-19 on new parents: one year on, which calls on the Government to commission a review into the funding and affordability of childcare.

Read the report (html): https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5802/cmselect/cmpetitions/479/47902.htm
Read the report (pdf): https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/7477/documents/78447/default/

Key recommendations

In light of the pandemic’s ongoing impact on new parents and the childcare sector, as set out in the report, the committee’s new report recommends that the Government should commission a review into the funding and affordability of childcare. The report says this review should consider how to provide greater financial security to the sector following the pandemic and ensure childcare provision meets the needs of new parents seeking to return to work.

Other key recommendations include calling on the Government to:

  • Publish a dedicated covid-19 recovery strategy for new parents, bringing together all Government actions to support this group, with a clear delivery plan
  • Provide additional funding and resources to allow catch-up mental health support for new parents impacted by covid-19
  • Fund local authorities in order to arrange in-person visits to new parents by the appropriate local authority, voluntary organisation, or health visiting staff by the end of the year

Find out more, including comment from Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/157932/new-parents-need-a-dedicated-covid19-recovery-strategy-says-committee/

Background

This new report follows the committee’s inquiry last year into the impact of covid-19 on maternity and parental leave, which found that “the impact of the pandemic on new parents and their children has so far not been given as much attention as it should have been”.

Read the report: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmpetitions/526/52602.htm

However, while the Government’s response to that report expressed sympathy with the position of expectant and new parents, it did not accept the committee’s recommendations on actions to address this impact.

What happens next?

The Petitions Committee have submitted the report to the Government for their consideration. Once it’s been received, the committee will publish the Government’s response on its website and notify petitioners.

Share this petition