Minister responds to nursery hours petition saying Jersey childcare sector is 'under strain'

The Children's Minister says the childcare sector is under strain because of the increased cost of living and difficulties recruiting. Credit: PA

Jersey's government says following the UK in providing additional free hours of childcare would be "a considerable programme of work".

Last month, the UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced children over nine months old in England would receive 30 free hours of childcare - something islanders wanted to be introduced here.

A petition was launched calling on Jersey's government to offer 20 free nursery hours for children of the same age, saying many parents cannot afford childcare so are having to stay at home.

Currently, three and four-year-olds are eligible for 30 free nursery hours during term time.

The island's Children's Minister, Deputy Inna Gardiner, says providing "high quality, equitable and affordable" childcare is a priority for the government.

She has instructed her Assistant Minister, Deputy Louise Doublet, "to ensure there is a continued focus" on Jersey's early years' services.

Responding to the petition, Deputy Gardiner says "it is important any future model of early years [care] is right for Jersey" and the government is working with childcare providers to ensure it addresses the challenges facing the sector.

The Minister previously told ITV News she wouldn't rule out extending the island's free childcare offering.

  • Last month, Deputy Inna Gardiner wouldn't rule out extending free childcare hours.

She appraised the current situation affecting childcare providers: "We know that the sector is currently under strain due to the increased cost of living and difficulties in recruitment.

"In recent years, three local early years settings have closed, seeing a loss of approximately 75 children’s spaces.

"Currently most, if not all, private settings are full, many with waiting lists until September 2024."

In March, the government pledged £82,000 in new funding to tackle the rising costs being faced by nurseries and pre-schools.

Deputy Gardiner added: "A balanced approach is required to ensure that the best interests of the child are met in addition to the needs of parents and the economy.

"This petition demonstrates local interest in extending the hours of free childcare provided.

"We will continue to consult with parents and carers as this policy work develops."

After several Jersey nurseries closed, those that remain have been fully subscribed. Credit: Unsplash

The issue has been a long-running one for Jersey's government - in 2020, the then-Education Minister, Senator Tracey Vallois, set out plans to increase free childcare hours.

Her successor, Deputy Jeremy Maçon, backtracked - saying he could not commit to increasing hours without a new consultation.

When Deputy Scott Wickenden took over the portfolio in 2021, he said he wanted to introduce free nursery care for all children under five but work on the scheme stalled during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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