Skip to main content

Childcare Act guarantees sure start for future generations

Print E-mail

The Government's flagship Childcare Bill has now received Royal Assent fulfilling commitments to give every child the best start in life and parents greater choice about how to balance work and family.

Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said:

"We have a real chance here to make a difference to children's lives for generations to come, to work together - all of us - national and local Government, voluntary and private sectors, parents and children - to deliver for the future. It's an opportunity we must all seize.

"This is an historic and radical piece of legislation - the first solely dedicated to early years and childcare - that redraws the boundaries of the welfare state ensuring that early years services are at the heart of what families can expect in their local areas.

"It will transform children's services by requiring local authorities to improve the outcomes for all young children, reduce inequalities, and ensure there is sufficient, high quality early years provision and childcare for parents locally."

The Childcare Act 2006 ensures:

* For all our children under 5 high quality early learning and care and better access to early childhood services

This is achieved by the free offer of care and learning which will increase and become more flexible for parents of 3 and 4 year olds that want it; the new Early Years Foundation Stage which will establish a framework to support children's development and learning from birth to five; and a duty on local authorities to improve the outcomes of young children by providing better joined up and accessible early childhood services through children's centres.

Also importantly in improving outcomes for all, the Act requires local authorities to reduce inequalities between those at risk of the poorest outcomes and the rest.

* For working parents a choice of a wide range of childcare where they can be confident that their children will thrive and be well cared for, enabling them to have greater choices about balancing work and family life

The Act places a duty on local authorities to secure - in partnership with the private and voluntary sector - sufficient childcare for all parents who choose to work or are in training in preparation for work and a duty to provide information and advice to parents on childcare and other services to support parents. It also reforms and simplifies the regulatory arrangements through the creation of two new registers run by Ofsted. These will provide parents with greater confidence about the childcare they choose.

Local authorities will work in partnership with the private and voluntary sector to ensure a diverse and sustained childcare market.