People in four different parts of Merseyside could receive a £1,000 cash payment to work in a nursery.
A new recruitment drive has been launched today, February 2 by the Department for Education with a trial of £1,000 tax free bonuses if people start a job in the early years provision sector for those aged two and above. This is “to give nurseries and early years providers the workers they need and offer more childcare places for parents.”
Four Merseyside areas across the Liverpool City Region will be eligible as part of the pilot. These are Wirral, Halton, Knowsley, and Sefton.
The £4.9m drive called Do Something Big is being brought in as the government prepares to roll out what it said is the largest ever expansion of free childcare in England from 1 April.
From April 2024, working parents will receive 15 free hours for two-year-olds. From September 2024, working parents will be eligible for 15 free hours from nine months to the start of school and from September 2025, this will increase to 30 hours.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, who grew up in Knowsley, said, “Parents shouldn’t have to choose between a career and a family and our expanded childcare offer is going to make sure of that.
“From April, hundreds of thousands of parents of two year olds will get 15 funded hours. This is good for families and good for the wider economy – ultimately putting more money in parents’ pockets at the end of the month.
“The fantastic nurseries, childminders and professionals across the childcare sector are central to the success of this roll out and our new recruitment campaign will support them in continuing to deliver the flexible and high-quality childcare parents need.”
The trial is expected to be welcomed by councils who said current services would struggle to cope with the sudden upsurge in demand. In 2023, local authorities were also allocated £289m to help support this but the Local Government Association (LGA) said councils needed to be supported with the resources and powers to manage local childcare markets properly.
The LGA called it “a positive step,” but added, “Councils have been working hard to support providers to increase their workforce, but many feel constrained by their inability to determine where new providers can be established.”
The day before at a Wirral Council children’s and education committee meeting on 1 February, local authority officers said they were preparing to deal with shortages of staff in some areas and respond quickly.
James Blackhouse said, “Where you may have the private voluntary independent sector nurseries that have got capacity within their site for a certain number of children, because they cannot recruit the staff, they cannot offer those number of places.
“While it’s fantastic there may be extra funding available for those families, if they cannot get the staff, they will not be able to expand their provision and that is a real challenge.”
He said the council was working with schools to look at expanding early years provision within schools as well as communicating with private and voluntary providers of childcare, the government as well as the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
Image: BBC Creative