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Parents working fewer hours still entitled to free childcare

Written by: Emma Lunn
Parents working fewer hours due to coronavirus restrictions will retain the right to childcare support even if their income falls below the minimum threshold requirement.

The government has confirmed that from Sunday 1 November, eligible working parents who receive support through the government’s new Job Support Scheme and extended Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will continue to receive their childcare entitlements.

These include 30 hours of free childcare for children aged three or four-years-old and Tax-Free Childcare for children aged 11 or under.

The government announced in May that parents would still be eligible for 30 hours free childcare if their income dropped below the minimum threshold as a result of coronavirus. The protection was put in place until the end of the summer term. It was then extended until the end of October – and now it has been extended again.

Vicky Ford, children and families minister, said: “This government is increasing the safety net available to families, protecting working parents and our dedicated early years sector. This has been our constant priority, which is why I am so pleased to see attendance rates rising, as more parents return to work and take up the formal childcare arrangements they used before Covid-19 struck.

“It’s testament to the hard work of early years professionals that these numbers are returning to what we would have seen before the pandemic. We know challenges remain for many families, which is why we continue to protect parents’ eligibility for our free childcare offers so they retain this vital support.”

Attendance data reveals that more parents are returning to their formal childcare settings, with attendance at early years settings now at 86% of pre-coronavirus daily levels.

This is set to increase further as, data published today in the latest parent survey by Ipsos MORI, shows that in September 94% of parents whose child received formal childcare before the pandemic were either using formal childcare now, or were intending to return their child to formal childcare if they could by January 2021.

It also shows that among those families who had returned to using formal childcare in September 71% were at the same nursery, preschool or childminder as before the pandemic, while exactly half were using the same number of hours of formal childcare as before.

Only one in eight were using fewer hours, while more than one third (35%) had increased their hours of formal childcare.

The minimum income threshold for 30 hours free childcare and Tax-Free Childcare is usually equal to 16 hours per week at the national minimum wage.

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