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Universal credit could open up early years funding for 8,000 more two-year-old children

By Deri Jones

The government’s new universal credit scheme will make 8,000 more children eligible for a funded early years place aged two, according to plans suggested by the Department for Education (DfE).
The universal credit scheme is due to replace jobseeker’s allowance and five other work-related benefits with a single payment. Once it is fully rolled-out it will be used to determine which disadvantaged families will be able to access funded childcare for two-year-olds.
Sector feedback
The DfE estimates that an additional 8,000 children will be entitled to a funded two-year-old place under universal credit. It is now asking for comments from the sector, as well as families, to help shape the scheme’s future.
Robert Goodwill, minister for children and families, commented: “The introduction of universal credit lies at the heart of the government’s commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes. This consultation will make sure the two-year-old entitlement continues to be targeted where it is needed most.”
Impact on 30 hours
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “We have always argued that all children, and especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, should have access to quality early years provision. So a policy change that would result in more two-year-olds being eligible for the funded entitlement – even a relatively small increase of 8,000 – is a positive move in principle.”
However, Neil also wanted that the government would need to ensure that the sector was ready to take an additional 8,000 children. He added: “With the introduction of the 30-hours scheme, there is a real danger that childcare providers struggling to balance the books will opt to reduce the number of two-year-old funded places in order to deliver the extended three- and four-year old offer.”
A recentl Alliance survey found that more than four in 10 providers who planned to deliver the 30 hours were likely to reduce the number of places offered to children of other ages as a result of the policy. 
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