Government announces childcare recruitment cash bonuses to rescue reforms

The government has launched a trial of £1,000 sign-on bonuses for childcare workers as it tries to rescue its faltering landmark expansion of subsidised places.

Voices across the childcare sector have warned that there is not enough funding or staff to deliver the government’s plans to expand free provision over the next two years.

white and blue lego blocks on brown wooden table

The £1,000 sign-on bonus for childcare workers aims to increase capacity and offer more childcare places.

The trial – which will cover 20 local authorities across the UK – will give new-starters and returners a tax-free cash payment shortly after they take up post. It is being launched alongside a recruitment drive to encourage people to start a career in childcare.

The government’s expansion of free childcare will be rolled out in three phases:

  • From April 2024, eligible working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours’ childcare support a week
  • From September 2024, 15 hours childcare support will be extended to eligible working parents of children from the age of nine months to three years
  • From September 2025, eligible working parents with a child from nine months old up to school age will be entitled to 30 hours of childcare a week

Education secretary Gillian Keegan said: ‘Parents shouldn’t have to choose between a career and a family and our expanded childcare offer is going to make sure of that.

‘From April, hundreds of thousands of parents of 2 year olds will get 15 funded hours. This is good for families and good for the wider economy – ultimately putting more money in parents’ pockets at the end of the month.

‘The fantastic nurseries, childminders and professionals across the childcare sector are central to the success of this rollout and our new recruitment campaign will support them in continuing to deliver the flexible and high-quality childcare parents need.’

The government has also announced steps to provide greater funding certainty to nurseries and childcare providers. Each year, the government sets out funding rates in the autumn, to take effect in the following financial year. A window – likely to be eight weeks – will be introduced, within which local authorities have to confirm rates, after the point the department announces local authority rates.

Image: Markus Spiske

More on this topic:

15 hours of free childcare available for two-year-olds

Extortionate childcare costs forcing Welsh parents into poverty


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