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Yesterday the Government opened the application process for a £2 million scheme designed to boost childcare businesses and get more women into work.
Anyone who wants to set up a new nursery or childminding business is able to apply for grants of up to £500 to help cover the costs of insurance, training, equipment and legal advice. The Government hopes the scheme will help launch up to 6,000 new childcare businesses.
The Childcare Business Grants Scheme, which was first announced by Maria Miller, the minister for women and equalities, in November last year, will be managed by Liberata UK on behalf of the Government.
Yesterday she said: “Women are absolutely vital to maximising the UK’s economic recovery, so it’s more important than ever that we ensure we are doing all we can to get more women into work.
“We all hear how difficult it is to get childcare and how it is a real barrier for some women getting back into work and we have listened. More childcare options mean more women can take up jobs, help support their families and achieve their own career goals and aspirations.
“The childcare industry is already a major employer of women, and this scheme will mean more opportunities for female entrepreneurs to start up and run their own businesses. This is a cash boost designed to stimulate the sector in tough times.”
The scheme comes on top of a package of measures that the Government is taking forward to increase childcare provision and help get more women into work. Those measures include overhauling childcare qualifications, a tax break for childcare costs for working families and extending the right to request flexible working to all employees.
After yesterday’s launch of the application process, Neil Leitch, the chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, expressed his desire for the Government to encourage men to start their own childcare businesses too.
He said: “The £2 million to create 6,000 new childminder and day nursery businesses may just about cover insurance costs alone, never mind covering the cost of purchasing equipment, toys, books, rent and rates, salaries and other core expenses.
“We would have preferred the Government to allocate the £2 million towards paying existing settings and effective rate under the free early years entitlement as a small capital injection is no substitute for a long-term, viable proposition which is what the sector really needs.
“We would question the minister’s emphasis on women as the Government ought to be encouraging more men to start businesses as childminders of day nurseries.
“Childcare is not women’s work alone and the Government needs to acknowledge this in its policies.”
Catherine Farrell, joint chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, also expressed concerns about the grants. She said: “These grants, if administered effectively, will provide a welcome contribution to the significant costs of establishing a nursery or childminding setting and support expansion of existing provision.
“However the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years has become increasingly concerned that the mechanisms proposed to distribute the grants will be open to misuse and, potentially, mean this vital support does not deliver the childcare places where families, including those with disabled children, need them most.”
For more information about the grants and how to apply, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/creating-a-fairer-and-more-equal-society/supporting-pages/funding-a-grant-scheme-for-new-childcare-businesses.