Childcare Act 2006


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Childcare Act 2006

  1. 1. highlight no. 234 Childcare Act 2006 Introduction Legislative context The Childcare Act 2006 is the first piece of legislation The Childcare Act sits within the framework of changes to solely dedicated to early years services in England and children’s services started by the Children Act 2004 and the Wales. It provides the legislative framework for many of the Every Child Matters programme. proposals described in the ten-year childcare strategy1 in which the government set out its vision for childcare Children Act 2004 services in England under four broad themes: Sections 10 (England) and 25 (Wales) of the Children Act 20043 place a reciprocal duty on local authorities and • Choice and flexibility: giving parents more choice about partner agencies to cooperate in order to improve the work/life balance and making changes to parental leave well-being of children in their area. ‘Well-being’ refers to • Availability: increasing the number of Sure Start the five outcomes for children and young people as set out Children’s Centres to 3,500 across England by 2010 and in Every Child Matters:4 mental and physical health; proposing the introduction of ‘wraparound’ (8am to protection from harm and neglect; education, training and 6pm) childcare in extended schools by 2010 recreation; making a positive contribution to society; and social and economic well-being. Sections 17 (England) and • Quality: providing a highly qualified workforce, a new 26 (Wales) require local authorities to prepare and publish framework integrating care and learning, new an overarching Children and Young People’s Plan (CYPP) regulation and inspection regimes and better to cover all local children’s services. Provisions in the information for parents Childcare Act 2006 fit within this overarching framework. • Affordability: ensuring that families are able to afford childcare that is appropriate for their needs, increasing Education and Inspections Act 2006 the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit, and Section 38 of the Education and Inspections Act 20065 increasing the free entitlement to early years provision. places a new duty on school governing bodies in England to consider the well-being of pupils referring to the five Changes to parental leave and pay were introduced by the outcomes for children; to promote community cohesion; Work and Families Act 2006. The commitment by and to have regard to the CYPP. government to provide parents with a free entitlement to childcare and a requirement on local authorities to secure Childcare Act 2006 sufficient childcare provision to satisfy local needs appears in the Childcare Act 2006 as does the reform of the The Act is divided into four Parts and three Schedules: regulatory framework for childcare in England. • Part 1 Places new duties on local authorities in England In the Wales childcare strategy, a clear programme of 2 • Part 2 Places new duties on local authorities in Wales action was laid out to help ensure that childcare meets the developmental needs of children in Wales; that childcare is • Part 3 Provides for regulation and inspection of affordable and available to enable parents to train or work; childcare in England (Schedule 1 covers amendments to and that childcare is provided so that parents can balance the curriculum) work, life and family commitments. Priority areas for • Part 4 Contains general provisions (Schedules 2 and 3 action included measures to ensure that childcare was deal with amendments and repeals). available to diverse communities, and the introduction of the Flying Start childcare and family support programme. Definitions The paper also proposed legislative change in order to In the Childcare Act 2006,6 the definitions of ‘childcare’ oblige local authorities to secure sufficient childcare. differ for England and Wales. For the English sections,
  2. 2. highlight no. 234 ‘childcare’ (s.18) refers to any form of care for a child The local early years partnership – the local authority, including education and any other supervised activity, but health and employment services – is established under s.4 of does not include education provided by a school to a the Act. Like the wider children’s trust partnership, these registered pupil during school hours, health or hospital agencies may choose to pool resources including staff, care, foster or residential care, or care for a child placed in goods, services and accommodation as well as funds in a custodial institution. Childcare also excludes care order to support the work of the partnership. provided by a parent, step parent or relative of the child. In Under s.3 of the Act, the local authority must make Wales, ‘childcare’ refers to the definition provided by the arrangements to secure the provision of integrated early Children Act 1989, meaning childminding and day care. childhood services in order to facilitate access to these A number of additional definitions apply to England only. services and maximise their benefits to parents, prospective A ‘young child’ (s.19) remains so until 31 August following parents and young children. Parents, providers and others his or her fifth birthday, allowing for an overlap with the should be involved in this process. The integrated service start of compulsory education. ‘Early years provision’ model refers to the s.4 early years partnership as well as (s.20) describes childcare for a young child. ‘Early children’s information services (s.12). The government will childhood services’ (s.2(1)) comprises early years provision issue guidance to s.3, which will come into force in April as well as relevant social services functions including 2008. Under s.3(3), local authorities have a duty to identify parenting classes; health services including health visitors, parents who, although unlikely to use the service may midwives and speech and language support; the benefit from doing so, potentially helping the local employment service or JobCentre Plus; and information, authority to meet its obligations to improve local outcomes advice and assistance for parents. This partnership of early and reduce inequalities. Section 7 of the Act places a duty childhood services emulates the wider strategic partnership on local authorities to provide free early years provision of or children’s trust described in s.10 of the Children Act a prescribed description for children of a prescribed age – 2004, and is the partnership associated with delivering Sure the legislative basis for the government’s commitment to Start Children’s Centres. ‘Parent’ (s.2(2)) includes people the provision of free childcare to all three- and four-year- with parental responsibility and prospective parents. ‘Later olds for at least 12.5 hours a week for 38 weeks a year, years provision’ (s.96(6)) – a term used in relation to rising to 15 hours a week by 2010. The government will Childcare Act inspection and regulation requirements – issue guidance to local authorities. covers children from 1 September following their fifth Section 3(5) of the Childcare Act 2006 places a new duty birthday up to an age to be prescribed in regulations, but on local authorities to take into account the views of young likely to be 14 (18 if the child is disabled). children when discharging relevant duties which, according to Lord Adonis during debates on the Bill, ‘can encompass Local authority duties in England all aspects of the design, delivery and development of early Section 1 places a duty on local authorities to improve the childhood services. However, by drafting the requirement well-being of, and reduce inequalities between, young in this way, we avoid the risk that local authorities will be children in their area, with specific reference to the five compelled to try to engage young children on matters outcomes for children. Draft guidance on the outcomes where meaningful consultation is simply not possible . . .’.10 duty states that the government’s aim is to improve social Section 6 relates to children up to the age of 14 (or 18 if mobility for those children at risk of doing less well, and in disabled), requiring the local authority to provide sufficient particular to narrow the gap between the 20 per cent of childcare services to enable parents to work or train for children with the poorest Early Years Foundation Stage work, and for which they are expected to pay. Section 11, Profile results and the rest of the population of young in force from April 2007, deals with the local authority children in the area, whilst improving outcomes for all duty to assess what is sufficient.11 The four key steps to young children.7 Regulations,8 in force since 5 June 2007, sufficiency – analysing demand, mapping supply, mapping provide for statutory early years outcomes targets to be supply to demand, and securing sufficiency – are placed negotiated between the Secretary of State for Children, within the broader Every Child Matters joint planning and Schools and Families and each local authority area. commissioning framework.12 The local authority is These targets are also referred to in supplementary expected to manage the local childcare market rather than guidance to the CYPP, 9 as is the requirement to subject the directly supply childcare, which can involve a mix of CYPP to race and disability equality assessments. From private, public, voluntary and independent providers. 2008, the Childcare Act outcomes targets will be statutory Guidance on s.6 relates ‘sufficiency’ to a number of factors local improvement targets in each local authority’s Local including: number of places, flexibility, accessibility, Area Agreement.
  3. 3. Childcare Act 2006 quality, range, knowledge and information, affordability, childcare and early years provision in England, replacing inclusivity, and sustainability.13 Section 6(2) stipulates that, Part XA and Schedule 9A of the Children Act 1989 as in assessing sufficiency, the local authority must have amended by the Care Standards Act 2000. regard to the needs of parents on a low income and those Section 31 describes the general functions of the Chief with disabled children. The duty to secure sufficient Inspector to keep the Secretary of State informed about: the childcare comes into force in April 2008. contribution of regulated early years provision to the Children’s Information Services (CIS), already available in well-being of children; the quality and standards of every local authority, are given an extended brief under s.12 regulated early years provision; how far it meets the needs of the Act. In addition to providing information to parents of young children; and the quality of leadership and on local childcare, early education and other care and management in connection with early years provision. support services for young children and their parents, the The Chief Inspector is required to maintain two registers. CIS will be expected to provide information for the parents The Early Years Register (s.33-51), in force from September of children and young people up to the age of 20 on other 2008, is compulsory, and covers early years childminding local services that may be relevant: education and family (i.e. provision on domestic premises for reward) and other learning, health and well-being, play and recreational early years providers (who register in respect of particular facilities, social care and family support, youth services, premises). There are a number of exemptions including and specialist services for disabled children and young childcare that takes place predominantly in the child’s people including Parent Partnership Services. Draft home, which would include nannies and babysitters; guidance on the duty describes an integrated information evening provision between 6pm and 2am; crèches; activity service that reaches out to those parents who might based provision; and faith settings such as Sunday schools otherwise have difficulty in accessing the service.14 or Madrassas. In order to satisfy registration requirements, Under s.13 of the Act, local authorities retain their duty to early years providers must implement the Early Years provide information, advice and training to childcare Foundation Stage (EYFS). Maintained (s.34) and providers, but gain the power to charge for it. Regulations independent (s.47) schools are exempt from the to this section come into force from October 2007.15 requirement to register early years school-based provision for children aged three or more that includes at least one Local authority duties in Wales registered pupil, but are subject to the existing school The Childcare Act 2006 introduces a number of similar inspection systems, and will also have to deliver the EYFS. duties to local authorities in Wales. Differences arise in the The Childcare Register (s.62-67) is in two parts: Part A, in following areas: force from September 2008, is compulsory and affects • In relation to the sufficiency duty (s.22), when deciding those providing childcare for children aged five to seven; whether childcare is sufficient, in addition to low- and Part B, in place from April 2007, is voluntary18 and can income families and those with disabled children, local include any provider who chooses, but is not required, to authorities must ensure that Welsh language needs of register on either the Early Years Register or Part A of the parents and children are taken into account Childcare Register. Section 35 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations governing the activities of those who • Under s.23, local authorities in Wales may themselves join the Childcare Register. These may deal with matters provide childcare ranging from the welfare and safeguarding of the children • Under s.26 the Welsh Assembly may rather than must concerned, and staff qualifications and training, to the require local authorities to assess childcare provision suitability of premises and equipment, and complaints procedures and record-keeping. • Local authority functions under this Act may be inspected by Estyn.16 It is an offence for a person to provide non-exempt provision without registering with Ofsted. Draft guidance has been published to s.22 and 26,17 which comes into force in April 2008. Early Years Foundation Stage Regulation and inspection in England Sections 39 to 46 of the Act establish the legislative framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), a Legislation outlining the work of Ofsted, the ‘children’s single quality framework for care, development and inspectorate’, is found in Part 8 of the Education and learning for children from birth to five.19,20 The EYFS brings Inspections Act 2006. Part 3 of the Childcare Act deals together three existing frameworks: Birth to Three Matters, with reforms to the regulation and inspection system for Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage and
  4. 4. Highlight No. 234 © National Children’s Bureau 2007. ISSN: 1365-9081. Highlights may highlight no. 234 be reproduced by NCB members for non-commercial circulation within their own organisation, subject to acknowledgement of source. Contact the Library for further information. National Children’s Bureau, 8 Wakley Street, London EC1V 7QE. Tel: 020 7843 6000. Fax: 020 7278 9512. National Standards for Under Eights Day Care and References Childminding.21,22,23 It consists of two parts: learning and 1. HM Government (2004) Choice For Parents, The Best Start For development requirements, and welfare requirements. The Children: A ten year strategy for childcare. London: TSO. learning and development requirements (s.41) describe 2. Welsh Assembly Government (2005) Childcare Strategy for Wales: early learning goals and educational programmes that Childcare is for children. Cardiff. WAG. involve six areas – personal, social and emotional 3. Children Act 2004. London: TSO. development; communication, language and literacy; 4. HM Treasury (2004) Every Child Matters. London: TSO. problem solving, reasoning and numeracy; knowledge and understanding of the world; physical development; and 5. Education and Inspections Act 2006. London: TSO. creative development – as well as assessment arrangements. 6. Childcare Act 2006. London: TSO. The welfare requirements (s.43) are subject to regulations 7. Department for Education and Skills (2007) Raising Standards, and refer to the welfare of children; safeguarding Improving Outcomes: Draft statutory guidance on the early years arrangements; the suitability of staff as well as their outcomes duty. London: DfES. qualifications and training; the suitability of premises and 8. Department for Education and Skills (2007) Local Authority Targets equipment; the manner in which the provision is organised; (Well-Being of Young Children) Regulations 2007. London: DfES. complaints procedures and record keeping; and the 9. Department for Education and Skills (2007) Annual Review of the provision of information. Children and Young People’s Plan: Supplementary guidance 2007. London: DfES. The EYFS becomes mandatory for all Ofsted registered 10. House of Lords (2006) Hansard, 26 June, col. 1011. settings and schools caring for children under five in September 2008 when the Early Years Register becomes 11. Department for Education and Skills (2007) Childcare Sufficiency operational. The main provisions of the Childcare Act 2006 Assessments: Guidance for local authorities. London: DfES. will come into force in 2008. 12. HM Government (2006) Joint Planning and Commissioning Framework For Children, Young People and Maternity Services. London: DfES. Lisa Payne 13. Department for Children, Schools and Families (2007) Securing August 2007 Sufficient Childcare: Guidance for local authorities. London: DCSF. 14. Department for Education and Skills (2007) Statutory Guidance on Section 12 of the Childcare Act – The Duty to Provide Information, Advice and Assistance. London: DfES. 15. Department for Education and Skills (2007) The Childcare Providers (Information, Advice and Training) Regulations 2007. (SI.1797). London: DfES. 16. Estyn is the office of HM Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales. 17. Welsh Assembly Government (2007) Childcare Act 2006: sections 22 and 26 consultation. Cardiff: WAG. 18. Ofsted (2007) Guide to Registration on the Voluntary Part of the Childcare Register. London: Ofsted. 19. Department for Education and Skills (2007) Early Years Foundation Stage. London: DfES. 20. Department for Education and Skills (2007) Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. London: DfES. 21. Department for Education and Skills (2002) Birth to Three Matters: A framework for supporting children in their earliest years. London: DfES. 22. Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (2000) Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage. London: QCA. 23. Department for Education and Employment (2001) National Standards for Under Eights Day Care and Childminding. London: DfEE. Further reading: McAuliffe, A, Linsey, A and Fowler, J (2006) Childcare Act 2006: The essential guide. London: National Children’s Bureau and NFER.