CHILDCARE providers in Hampshire will receive a boost of more than £6m from the county council between December 2023 and March 2024.

The funding comes from the Government’s new Early Years Supplementary Grant which will increase the amount that early years providers receive for delivering free childcare to eligible children aged between two and four-years-old.

Local authorities across the country have been awarded a total of £204m from the grant, to be paid to early childcare providers during the 2023/2024 financial year, which starts on April 6 2023 and ends on April 5, 2024.

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The scheme has already helped more than 1,000 Hampshire providers this autumn, according to Hampshire County Council.

Cllr Steve Forster, Hampshire County Council’s cabinet member for education, said: “Making childcare more accessible is vital to help more parents return to work and to improve outcomes for some of the most vulnerable children in our communities.

“However, all of this comes at an extra cost to our providers and, with the early years sector continuing to face significant financial challenges, I know that this additional funding will be greatly welcomed both by our providers and the many families they serve.”

The Early Years Supplementary Grant will increase the funding for the following free childcare entitlements:

  • 15 hours entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds
  • 15 hours universal entitlement for three and four-year-olds
  • 15 hours additional entitlement for three and four-year-old children of working parents
  • Early Years Pupil Premium, to support disadvantaged children aged three and four-years-old
  • Disability Access Fund, to support three and four-year-olds with special educational needs and disabilities

The county council has paid £2.7m to childcare providers for the autumn term.

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The allocation is based on the number of children with free childcare entitlements, following their providers' autumn term headcounts. 

The remaining £3.3m will be awarded in the spring 2024 term.

The announcement comes as the Government unveiled its plans last week to expand free childcare for working parents, as well as increasing hourly funding rates paid to the providers from next April.

The plans will see hourly rates for funded three and four-year-old places in the county increase by 5.1 per cent, from £5.69 to £5.98.

Hourly rates for funded two-year-olds and children under two will also rise to £8.32 and £11.30 respectively.

Additionally, from September 2025, working parents of children aged between nine months and four years will be able to access up to 30 hours of funded childcare, currently only open to working parents with children aged three and four years.

The expanded childcare offer will be available to parents who earn more than the equivalent of 16 hours at the National Living Wage per week.

From April 2024, eligible parents of two-year-olds can apply for 15 hours of funded childcare.

The county council is encouraging parents to apply between mid-January and the end of February to secure eligibility early.

New childminders can also benefit from a grant of up to £1,200 from the Government, with the Childminder Start-Up Grant Scheme, which launched on November 30, 2023.

Commenting on the Government’s latest plans, Cllr Forster added: “This is more good news for both providers and parents alike.

"We look forward to going through the plans in more detail and will work closely with our providers as the changes begin to be rolled out next year.”

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