Government announces extension to two-year-old scheme

In light of the rollout of national Universal Credit, the government have announced it will support more disadvantaged two-year-olds to receive free early years education. 

The scheme will echo the current early years pupil premium, which aims to help low income families by giving additional funding to early years settings. 

It will take effect from 1 April 2018 and introduce a net earnings threshold of £15,400 per annum under Universal Credit for eligibility for the 15 hours free entitlement. There will also be a net earning threshold of £7,400 per annum for free school meals and EYPP, also taking effect from 1 April 2018. 

The announcement comes just weeks after Nadhim Zahawi’s appointment as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families and follows two public consultations involving charities, early years providers, local authorities, parents and schools.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “NDNA welcomes the principal of early support for children from disadvantaged backgrounds in order to give them the best start in life.

“High quality early education is the best way to narrow the inequality gap.

“However, the government cannot just expect early years settings to be able to offer enough places for all eligible two-year-olds with the current funding rate. Our research shows that fewer nurseries are offering these places and more are planning to reduce the number of places they deliver so they can remain sustainable.

“There needs to be adequate investment in this scheme to enable more settings to be able to offer all eligible two-year-olds a much-needed place. Currently most nurseries say their hourly rate falls below their costs, with an average shortfall of £638 per year per child.

“It’s crucial for these children that the hourly rate meets nurseries’ costs as their parents may not be able to afford to pay additional charges for meals and snacks.

“We are pleased that more children will benefit from the EYPP but this money should match the amount received by schools. Investing more in early years will pay dividends in later schooling.

“If the government is serious about tackling disadvantage, why not align EYPP with eligibility for the two-year-old offer which is available to a larger number of children? Then they would capture all those who really need this early boost.”