The Spring Budget confirms that free childcare for working parents in England will be extended to children between the ages of nine months and two.
Families with three- and four-year-olds are currently eligible for 30 hours of free childcare per week. Children over nine months will be eligible for additional support under the new plans.
Jeremy Hunt, chancellor of the UK, said the support would be phased in gradually until September 2025.
Starting in April 2024, working parents of two-year-olds will be able to take advantage of 15 hours of free childcare, and from September 2024 onward, working parents will be able to take advantage of 15 hours of free childcare.
Earlier this week, Hunt announced the government would start paying childcare costs upfront for Universal Credit claimants if they meet with work coaches more often.
Nurseries will also receive an additional £204 million next year for their existing free hours programs, according to the government.
There has been a push for months for more support for working parents when it comes to childcare.
The OECD reports that childcare costs in the UK are among the highest. The UK spends 22% of its net family income on childcare, compared to 10% in the rest of the OECD.
Stella Creasy, Labour MP, said more financial support was needed before the Budget announcement.
“If this is true, it’s asking childcare providers to offer more hours at a loss as it’s only half the money needed to deliver this promise,” she tweeted.
In a recent survey by HR software company HiBob, only 32% of women receive paid maternity leave beyond 12 weeks, and less than a fifth of employers provide childcare.
In the annual Women in Work Index by consulting firm PwC, the UK ranked fifth for affordable childcare, with many women priced out of returning to work by childminder and nursery fees.