The UK government is today expected to announce it will extend its free childcare policy to parents of children aged one and two.
With Chancellor Jeremy Hunt poised ready to deliver his first Budget of 2023 at 12:30pm today, it has already been revealed ahead of time, according to multiple national news outlets, that a £4 billion support package will be unveiled to help parents and guardians cope with the cost of childcare as the cost of living crisis continues.
The government‘s plan is believed to include 30 hours a week of free childcare for families in England with children in that age group.
At present, only parents with children aged three and four are currently eligible.
Childcare has been a topic of much discussion in recent weeks, after it was revealed that UK childcare costs are among some of the most expensive in the world – with full-time nursery fees for a child under two coming in at an average of £269 a week last year, which is equivalent to around £14,000 annually.
The Early Years Alliance also warned last week that nursery fees are predicted to increase even further and higher than in previous years – going up by an average of 8%.
Currently, all families of children aged three and four are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week, over 38 weeks, while households in England can qualify for 30 hours of free childcare a week if parents earn the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum or living wage.
But the Chancellor is promising to extend this further in his Budget later today.
On top of the expected plans to extend the government’s free childcare offering, Mr Hunt could also be announcing a £288 million increase in funding for the current free childcare programme for three-year-olds by 2024-25, according to The Guardian, as well as addressing the issues raised over staffing numbers at childcare facilites nationwide.
In response to the reports of an expected funding boost, the Early Alliance’s Chief Executive, Neil Leitch, agrees that while it initially appears positive, “the devil is in the detail”.
“We know that the sector is facing its most challenging time in decades,” Mr Leitch said.
“Settings are closing at record levels, there is a severe recruitment and retention crisis, and costs continue to soar.
“Unless the government puts in safeguards to ensure that funding for all early entitlement offers continues to meet the sharply rising costs of delivering places, not only now but in the future, what is currently a crisis will end up in catastrophe.”
The Chancellor has come under pressure in recent weeks to act on childcare, and respond with an offer to rival Labour’s plan for radical overhaul after the next General Election.
While The Treasury has already announced plans to increase the £646-a-month cap on support for parents on Universal Credit by several hundred pounds, and pay the support up front instead of parents having to claim it back, opposition parties and critics are still demanding more be done by the Conservative government.
Rio Ferdinand is helping change young lives with community programmes in Oldham and Salford
Ex-Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand and his foundation’s wonderful work is helping better the lives of young people in Oldham, Salford and across Manchester as a whole.
Over the past year, the Rio Ferdinand Foundation and The Guinness Partnership have been putting together a vital social initiative aimed at providing opportunities and resources to young people across Greater Manchester, helping them develop their skills and aspirations for future working life.
Now, after a hugely successful 12-month campaign, their skills and progression community programme, participants are well and truly starting to feel the impact, with 90% of those taking part now stating that they are enjoying a clear idea and focus on what they want to do for a career.
It may have be thriving in Salford and Oldham at the moment, but given the benefit the scheme has already had — not to mention the ambition the Rio Ferdinand Foundation has shown around various areas of the UK since being set up in 2012 — we can only see this spreading further across the region.
The skills-based initiative engages young people aged under 25 years old and living in Guinness homes in a six-month skills-based programme which has been up and running in the two Manc boroughs, as well as the London boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, since March 2022.
Young people from both Oldham and Salford take part in a weekly schedule of activities designed to tackle youth unemployment, including digital media training (photography, product design, filmmaking, podcasting), building and construction, CV workshops, mock interviews and more.
Not only do these shadowing opportunities garner confidence and raise aspirations among other young people in the local community, but they also help directly develop their employability skills via mentoring.
For instance, Matthew, 19 from Royton in Oldham, completed the programme and then was supported to apply to the Guinness Aspire Awards to request funding to purchase camera and lighting equipment to help him start a small local photography business. Quality stuff.
Matt says that the scheme “has been an amazing opportunity and has given [him] a chance to get back on the right path… I know what I want to do now and can’t wait to start… I would recommend that other people in my position get involved with it in the future.”
As well as markedly increasing participants health and well-being, all 100% of those involved across Salford and Oldham reported feeling more confident, with many now enjoying opportunities with the Rio Ferdinand Foundation’s partners such as Warner Music, Kiss FM, The Jockey Club and the Gym Group.
Speaking on the programme’s success, Rio himself said in a statement: “The Foundation is committed to working with young people at the heart of their communities to offer support, training, and opportunities to those that need it… engaging with the Guinness Partnership has provided a great boost to our reach and our work”.
Well in, Rio. Thankfully, he isn’t the only ex-Manchester-based footballer still trying to make a difference in the local community either:
Campbell, 38, was found dead in his home in Mossley, Tameside, on Saturday 3 July. He had been fatally assaulted and died of the injuries he sustained in the attack.
Belfield was arrested on 23 March 2023 by Suriname authorities on suspicion of drug-related offences – he’ll likely remain in the South American nation’s jurisdiction to face these charges.
Then GMP want to bring him back to Manchester to face questioning from GMP’s Major Incident Team.
Detective Chief Inspector Liz Hopkinson from GMP’s Major Incident team said: “The news of Belfield’s arrest is an important development in our investigation, we will be working with international law enforcement agencies to bring Belfield back to Manchester and continue in our pursuit to find answers for Thomas’ family.
“Through vigilance shown by our colleagues in South America, Belfield was recognised by Suriname’s law enforcement upon his arrest and information regarding his whereabouts was shared with our Force Critical Wanted Unit.
“We have previously released numerous appeals to ask for help in finding him and we thank the public for their continued support in this case.
“This is an excellent result which shows once again, that UK law enforcement does not give up on finding those abroad who are wanted for offences in the UK.”