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Money but no method

David Henderson and Sarah Nelson report from the European Network for School Age Child Care in Edinburgh

Ministers have pledged to spend millions to build a structure of child care. Ironically, a fragmented spending pattern is itself set to tackle fragmentation of services. The measures include:

* Pounds 138 million over three years to extend part-time nursery places to all three-year-olds and four-year-olds.

* Pounds 49m for local childcare partnerships, parents' helplines in every authority, and extra cash for regulation and inspection.

* Pounds 42m over three years for up to 5,000 part-time places for children from birth to age three. They will be based in family centres.

* Pounds 25-Pounds 30m a year is expected to flow into services from the new childcare tax credit to help families on middle and low incomes. Parents will have up to Pounds 70 a week to buy whatever registered care they need for children of any age.

* Pounds 25m over three years from the lottery's New Opportunities Fund for out-of-school care.

* Pounds 40m is already being spent by local authorities on child care, while an extra Pounds 10m is being channelled through the urban programme, rural challenge fund and out-of-school care initiative. An additional Pounds 5m of New Deal cash is being spent this financial year on care (Pounds 3.8m has gone to authorities for creating places).

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