Early Learning & Childcare: Election Briefing

Funded Childcare in England: An Overview

Across England, there are currently three separate schemes for funded childcare, which cover the ‘care’ costs of a parent’s invoice. These government schemes are:

  • 15 hours of funded education and childcare for 2-year-olds for families receiving additional government support or children with additional needs

  • 15 hours of funded childcare for all 3 and 4-year-olds for every family

  • 15/30 hours of funded childcare for children between 9 months to 4-years-old for working parents which is split as such:

    • 9-month-old children will receive 15 hours of funded childcare from September 2024, and 30 hours of funded childcare from September 2025

    • 2-year-old children will receive 15 hours of funded childcare from April 2024, and 30 hours of funded childcare from September 2025 

    • 3 to 4-year-old children currently receive 30 hours of funded childcare

Views from the sector

The childcare sector offers an essential function for our society in so many ways. We know that a secure foundation in early learning and childcare leads to better life chances for children, as well as work choices for parents, underpinning economic prosperity. 

We want to see a thriving early learning and childcare offer in every postcode in the country. A core part of ensuring that young children’s care and learning outside of their home is high-quality includes delivering an early years sector which is both sustainable and valued and underpins the economy, which is so reliant on this key service. Salient issues across the sector, which are impacting parents and children in every consistency include: 

  • SEND – Support for SEND children in the early years is in crisis. Children are waiting months and even years for proper support. Barriers to early identification of additional needs are slowing down children accessing vital support and are having an impact on the life chances of young people. Adequate resources and funding are urgently needed to support children with SEND.


  • Flexibility of Workforce Requirements and Qualification Reform – Settings are operating below capacity due to the workforce crisis, limiting access to childcare. The Level 3 skills shortage needs addressing; broadening access to the sector through greater use of Experienced Based Routes and transfer of qualifications from other sectors, such as Health and Social care will help to attract more practitioners to the sector. In addition, the EYFS is at odds with the Apprenticeship standards having removed the requirement for GCSE Maths, which is still required for the funded L3 apprenticeship qualifications.


  • Ofsted – The current appeals system is not fit for purpose and does not see complaints fully dealt with. Reform to the appeals system is required to ensure proper oversight of Ofsted’s role and ensure any and all complaints are fully investigated, and subsequent recommendations are fully applied across the agency.


  • Local Authority Funding – “Top slicing” is resulting in millions of pounds of funding not reaching providers and parents, in addition to complicating the process by which parents can access the funding. There is a need for greater transparency, simplification, timely confirmation and communication, and standardisation of the process to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy. Each Local Authority operates different systems and processes to allocate the funding, and many also recreate the standard funding contract for providers, duplicating effort. A consistent approach to the distribution of funding for children’s places in the Early Years will benefit all stakeholders.


  •  Funding Description – the use of “free childcare” causes confusion for parents and should be changed to reflect the funding more accurately.