The announcement that free childcare will be extended as part of reforms in the Budget has been seen as a move in the right direction by Oxfordshire nurseries.

But there is still a feeling that there is more to do following Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's announcement at Westminster. 

Parents of one- and two-year-olds will get 30 hours of free childcare a week, in order to encourage them back to work.

They will be required to work at least 16 hours to get this support.

READ MORE: Dad's anger over care of woman who died at Cherwell Valley services

Previously there has been no support after parental leave ends after nine months, until free nursery hours are offered for three and four-year-olds.

It has been blamed for preventing young parents, particularly women, from working as they cannot afford expensive childcare.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt warned: “We have one of the most expensive systems in the world. For many women, a career break becomes a career end.

"Our female participation rate is higher than average for OECD economies, but we trail top performers like Denmark and the Netherlands.

"If we matched Dutch levels of participation, there would be more than one million more women who want to work, in the labour force.

"And we can.”

Bicester Advertiser: Chancellor Jeremy HuntChancellor Jeremy Hunt

Alana Barney, assistant manager at Busy Bees Oxford Littlemore, said she would need to see more detail.

She said: “In a way I think it’s good because it allows parents to go back to work but then for babies, I don’t know. I feel like they are so little.

"But as a mother myself I had to return to work after nine months and I guess any support is good.

“But it depends also who is able to get the funding and who is eligible. I would like to see the detail.”

Mr Hunt also announced that to help nurseries, staff-to-child ratios will change from 1:4 to 1:5 for two-year-olds in England but that will be "optional".

Ms Barney said that it could help given the current recruitment crisis in the sector.

She said: “Again there’s two sides to it. With the lack of staff that are coming through it could work from that side of it but for myself working in the rooms one to four is challenging enough. One to five could have an impact on various things.

“If we did it, it would be trial and error if it came into place.”

Jessica Runnels, a senior room leader at Culham nursery, also said it was something they might try.

READ ALSO: Spring Budget 2023: What is the new childcare scheme and who is eligible

"All the rooms would be fully staffed and if there were concerns we would change or upgrade the rooms for health and safety," she said.

"I think extending the free hours would be very beneficial for parents.

"Childcare is incredibly expensive. I am a mother and I get staff discount but even so I've nearly cried at the cost and wondered how can we afford it."

Meanwhile a financial expert said it was welcome but did not go nearly far enough. 

Sarah Connelly of online lender Cashfloat said: "The Chancellor's budget plans are likely to be a drop in the bucket compared to the overall cost of childcare with many claiming it needs to be entirely scrapped and a new process to be instigated.

"The Government has a long way to go before families are able to affordably access the kind of quality childcare they need."


Read more from this author

This story was written by Miranda Norris, she joined the team in 2021 and covers news across Oxfordshire as well as news from Witney.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Or find her on Twitter: @Mirandajnorris

Profile: Miranda Norris Journalists news from the Oxford Mail