Shropshire Star

Changes to childcare: All you need to know and where to go for help and advice

Families across Shropshire are being encouraged to find out more about the changes to childcare costs that come into effect this year.

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From April 2024 working families will be able to receive more support with their childcare costs, says Shropshire Council.

Eligible families will be entitled to 570 hours of free childcare each year, and these entitlements will then be expanded in phases.

By September 2025, most working families with children under the age of 5 will be entitled to 1,140 hours of funded childcare support each year.

The callout is part of the an across-Government campaign called Childcare Choices, that aims to make more parents aware of the financial support on offer to help them with the costs of childcare.

While most families in Shropshire are entitled to some form of support, many are missing out because they simply don’t know they are eligible.

What are the changes?

The changes are being introduced gradually to make sure that providers can meet the needs of more families. This means that:-

From April 2024, eligible working parents in England with children aged 2 will have access to 15 hours per week (570 hours per year) childcare.

From September 2024, the 15 hours per week (570 hours per year) childcare offer will be expanded to eligible working parents in England with children between nine months and three years old.

From September 2025, eligible working parents in England with children between nine months up to school age, will have access to 30 hours per week (1,140 hours per year) childcare.

Depending on your choice of childcare provider, these hours can be used over 38 weeks of the year, or up to 52 weeks if you use fewer than your total hours per week.

Support is also expanding for primary-school aged children. From September 2024, parents are expected to see an expansion in the availability of childcare in their local area before and after school, between 8am and 6pm, also known as ‘wraparound care’.

Who is eligible?

The eligibility criteria for the new free hours are based on the income of the parents and the age of the child.

Parents must be working and earning at least the equivalent of 16 hours per week at the national minimum wage or living wage.

Parents must not have an individual income of more than £100,000 per year.

Children must be under the age of 5 and not yet in school.

Councillor Kirstie Hurst-Knight, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for children and education, said Shropshire Council welcomes the exciting new opportunity for families:-

“We are delighted that more financial support is becoming available for working families at a time when the high cost of living is affecting so many households.

“We’re also proud of the quality of the care and learning which is provided by Shropshire childcare providers and colleagues across the county, who are working hard to support our providers to ensure that we can offer free places to as many parents as possible.

“Hundreds of families across Shropshire could be saving money on their childcare costs. But some simply don’t know what support they might be eligible for.

“Therefore, we strongly encourage every parent and carer to visit the Childcare Choices website and find out what they are entitled to, and then talk to their chosen childcare provider about how and when to access their free hours.

“Please sign up for more details about the upcoming expansion from April 2024, as well as how and when to register for support with your childcare costs.”

If any parents need more help then Shropshire Family Information service can offer information and advice

How to sign up and apply

To find out more, and to make an application for the new free hours, parents and carers should go to the Childcare Choices site.

The Childcare Choices website brings together all the existing childcare offers in one place, so parents can get the help that fits their family. This could be through Tax-Free Childcare, 30 hours childcare, or Universal Credit for childcare. Some families might be eligible to use more than one childcare scheme together, and get the most out of it.

More cost of living help

There’s advice, information and support for families who are struggling with the cost of living, on the Shropshire Council cost of living pages.