How will the government's new 30 hours of free childcare work
The cost of childcare in the UK is among the highest in the world.
The government has announced new measures to help some working parents in England but experts warn that the impact of the initiative remains highly uncertain.
What are the eligibility criteria for 30 hours free childcare and when will the scheme be rolled out?
In the Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that the current scheme offering some families 30 free hours of childcare per week would be extended to cover children aged three and four.
Changes to child tax credits will be phased in for households in England where the parent or parents earn at least £152 a week but less than £100,000 a year.
In April 2024, the government will provide 15 hours of free childcare per week to all two-year-olds in the UK.
The government has announced that children between nine months and two years old will receive 15 hours of free early learning per week.
Children between nine months and three years old will be eligible for 30 hours of free childcare a week from September 2025.
The move could allow 60,000 more parents of young children to enter the workforce, according to a report by the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR).
But Paul Johnson, from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS), questioned the impact of the changes on parents' employment. He said they might help only "a few tens of thousands" of parents return to work.
What other child care initiatives were announced?
The hourly rate paid to childcare providers for free care will rise by 3 percent.
The government is to provide upfront childcare support for 700,000 families on universal credit.
The government has raised the amount that people on universal credit can claim for childcare from £646 to £951 per month for one child and from £1,108 to £1,630 for two.
The government is offering a £600 incentive for people signing up to become childminders.
England will allow each child-care worker to look after five two-year-olds, up from four now.
The government said it hoped to save families up to 15% - about £40 a week - on their childcare costs.
The Early Years Alliance, a group representing childcare providers in the UK, said the government's decision was "shameful" and that it would compromise safety and staff well-being.
Education Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that the government will ensure all schools in England offer wraparound care by September 2026.
How do you get free hours childcare?
All three- and four-year-olds in the United Kingdom are entitled to some free early education. Different programs operate in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. They must be delivered by officially registered providers.
The government of England provides 15 hours of free childcare per week in term time, or 38 weeks a year. This can be used in some private nurseries or state-run pre-schools.
The 30 free hours of childcare is available to parents who both earn at least £152 per week on average.
England's current government offers 15 hours of free childcare per week to two-year-olds in families that qualify, including those receiving universal credit.
The free hours are available after the child reaches the relevant age, which is usually eight years old.
Not all private nurseries provide free hours, and some charge parents for extras such as nappies or snacks.
What other forms of financial help are available for childcare?
The government offers a tax-free childcare scheme to families. The scheme pays £2 for every £8 families contribute, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child per year (£4,000 for disabled children).
Parents can use the money to pay for approved childcare, such as childminders, nurseries, nannies, or after-school clubs. The money can be used alongside free childcare hours if parents qualify for both.
To be eligible for the scheme, a parent must have an income of £152 per week or less than £100,000 a year.
Families claiming universal credit can claim back up to 85% of childcare costs, even if they aren't using the tax-free childcare scheme.
The Care to Learn scheme provides financial assistance to parents under 20 who are at school or sixth form college, and living in England. The payments are worth £160 per child per week outside London, or £175 inside the capital.
The cost of childcare varies across the UK
The amount of time a child spends in day care depends on a number of factors, including her age and the number of hours she attends.
According to the charity Coram, the average cost of full-time nursery for a child under two in Britain is nearly £15,000 a year. Childcare from a childminder is nearly £13,000.
How does the United Kingdom rank with other countries?
The United Kingdom ranks third among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in terms of its childcare costs, after Switzerland and New Zealand.
The figures are based on a hypothetical family with two children aged two and three, who attend nursery for at least 40 hours a week.
How does the cost of childcare affect women's ability to work?
Official figures on the number of women who leave the workforce as a direct result of pregnancy are unavailable.
However, data from the Office for National Statistics indicates that about 1.5 million women are not working because they are caring for family members. They are part of a larger group called the "economically inactive"--people who are not employed and not seeking employment.
A survey by Pregnant then Screwed, a charity for mothers, found that 43 percent of parents had considered leaving their jobs because of childcare costs. Two-fifths worked fewer hours than they wanted.
The Women's Budget Group estimates that 1.7 million women in England would work more hours if they had the means to do so.