‘I’m sobbing gently into my scotch!’ Parents with children about to turn three mourn just missing out on 30 hours a week of free childcare for one and two-year-olds in England

  • Children aged three or four already receive 30 hours per week of free care
  • Parents have previously faced bills of thousands of pounds for under threes
  • Read more: Are you eligible for free childcare? Everything you need to know

Parents of young children are today expressing frustration about the Chancellor’s plan to introduce 30 hours of free childcare to one and two-year-olds, after spending thousands of pounds on nursery fees for their youngsters who are about to turn three.

Those with children who are already three or who are set to turn three in the coming months have bemoaned sky-high costs funded from their own pockets – which other parents will now not have to fund.

Under current government legislation, working parents of children aged three and four already receive 30 hours of free care a week during school term time unless one earns more than £100,000.

But parents of one and two-year-olds have faced huge bills or even having to give up work entirely.

The funds for parents in England will be set out during Jeremy Hunt’s statement to the Commons this afternoon. 

Parents of one and two-year-olds in England are set to receive 30 hours of free childcare per week during school term time

Parents took to social media to express their horror they have missed out on free childcare

Chief Executive of thinktank Resolution Foundation Torsten Bell, which aims to improve the lives of people on low to middle incomes, told his Twitter followers last night: ‘Parents with kids turning three shortly should shield themselves from tomorrow’s Budget/have the whisky to hand.’

One father responded: ‘Mine turns three in May. My wife had to give up work.

‘I’m sobbing gently into my Scotch.’

A second parent joked: ‘Basically gave up doing anything fun for two years of my life to pay my son’s childcare in full. Now they are giving hours away. I welcome death.’

Current rules mean families with two-year-olds are entitled to 15 free hours of childcare if they claim benefits.

Two-year-olds can also get free childcare if they are looked after by a local authority; have an education, health and care plan; get Disability Living Allowance; or have left care under an adoption order, special guardianship order or a child arrangements order.

But under Mr Hunt’s plans the scheme will be massively extended so parents who work can get 30 free hours a week when their children are aged both one and two.

He is also expected to raise the hourly rate the Government pays to care providers.

UK childcare fees are among the highest in the world, with spiralling costs in areas such as energy and food forcing day nurseries to hike their charges to levels some parents can no longer afford.

It is thought the new free hours will be available to all parents, unless one earns more than £100,000.

Many social media users admitted to being ‘bitter’ about the Chancellor’s plans.

One said: ‘I’m glad nobody else will no longer have to go through what we have. I’d be lying if I weren’t bitter, though.’

Others speculated the scheme would take so long to roll out that they could miss out – despite their children only being one or two now.

The plans will be set out during the Chancellor’s budget on Wednesday afternoon

 ‘My youngest is two this week. I bet it takes a year to roll out,’ said one.

Another added: ‘My youngest is two in a couple of weeks. I can see it coming in in September 2024 when we get the 30 free hours anyway.’

One particularly unlucky parent simply said: ‘This is like when the 2020 stamp duty freeze came in TWELVE HOURS after we completed on our house.’

The Conservatives hope that today’s budget will help the party in the polls, where it has been consistently significantly behind Labour for months now. 

Childcare is seen as one of the key issues which could win voters over – but only if the scheme is effective and accessible.

Labour MP Stella Creasy last night said the plan was ‘economically illiterate’, warning it would push up demand for nursery spaces without addressing supply. 

Nurseries around the UK have faced closure in recent months due to the impact of the cost of living crisis and spiralling energy bills.

Some have been forced to charge parents of younger children even higher prices in order to remain open – which could leave many short of funds once the free hours are introduced. 

Colleague of Ms Creasy Clive Lewis said on Wednesday: ‘Full-time nursery for under-2s has reached nearly £15k a year.

’70 percent of all group-based nursery places are now provided by private-for-profit nurseries.

‘If the government puts more money into childcare without cracking down on private equity profiteers, costs for parents won’t be cut.’

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