Money blog: Major free childcare change kicks in today as parents of younger children can now apply (2024)

Weekend Money
  • Free childcare applications open for new age band
  • 'Loud budgeting': The money-saving trend that has nothing to do with giving up your daily coffee
  • What is most in-demand period property?
  • £12m tea advert, downsizing, £320 tasting menus and job interview mistakes: What readers have said this week
  • Where has huge week for UK economy left us?
Best of the week
  • How to avoid a holiday data roaming charge (while still using the internet)
  • Mortgage rates up again this week - here are the best deals on the market
  • My daughter discovered undeclared £600 management fee after buying her flat - can we complain?
  • Best of the Money blog - an archive

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07:22:58

Free childcare applications open for new age band on Sunday

From Sunday, eligible working parents of children from nine-months-old in England will be able to register for access to up to 15 free hours of government-funded childcare per week.

This will then be granted from September.

Check if you're eligiblehere- or read on for our explainer on free childcare across the UK.

England

Three and four year olds

In England, all parents of children aged three and four in England can claim 15 hours of free childcare per week, for 1,140 hours (38 weeks) a year, at an approved provider.

This is a universal offer open to all.

It can be extended to 30 hours where both parents (or the sole parent) are in work, earn the weekly minimum equivalent of 16 hours at the national minimum or living wage, and have an income of less than £100,000 per year.

Two year olds

Previously, only parents in receipt of certain benefits were eligible for 15 hours of free childcare.

But, as of last month, this was extended to working parents.

This is not a universal offer, however.

A working parent must earn more than £8,670 but less than £100,000 per year. For couples, the rule applies to both parents.

Nine months old

In September, this same 15-hour offer will be extended to working parents of children aged from nine months. From 12 May, those whose children will be at least nine months old on 31 August can apply to received the 15 hours of care from September.

From September 2025

The final change to the childcare offer in England will be rolled out in September 2025, when eligible working parents of all children under the age of five will be able to claim 30 hours of free childcare a week.

Wales

In some areas of Wales, the Flying Start early years programme offers 12.5 hours of free childcare for 39 weeks, for eligible children aged two to three. The scheme is based on your postcode area, though it is currently being expanded.

All three and four-year-olds are entitled to free earlyeducation of 10 hours per week in approved settings during term time under the Welsh government's childcare offer.

Some children of this age are entitled to up to 30 hours per week of free early education and childcare over 48 weeks of the year. The hours can be split - but at least 10 need to be used on early education.

To qualify for this, each parent must earn less than £100,000 per year, be employed and earn at least the equivalent of working 16 hours a week at the national minimum wage, or be enrolled on an undergraduate, postgraduate or further education course that is at least 10 weeks in length.

Scotland

All three and four-year-olds living in Scotlandare entitled to at least 1,140 hours per year of free childcare, with no work or earnings requirements for parents.

This is usually taken as 30 hours per week over term time (38 weeks), though each provider will have their own approach.

Some households can claim free childcare for two-year-olds. To be eligible you have to be claiming certain benefits such as Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance or Universal Credit, or have a child that is in the care of their local council or living with you under a guardianship order or kinship care order.

Northern Ireland

There is no scheme for free childcare in Northern Ireland. Some other limited support is available.

Working parents can access support from UK-wide schemes such as tax credits, Universal Credit, childcare vouchers and tax-free childcare.

Aside from this, all parents of children aged three or four can apply for at least 12.5 hours a week of funded pre-school education during term time. But over 90% of three-year-olds have a funded pre-school place - and of course this is different to childcare.

What other help could I be eligible for?

Tax-free childcare- Working parents in the UK can claim up to £500 every three months (up to £2,000 a year) for each of their children to help with childcare costs.

If the child is disabled, the amount goes up to £1,000 every three months (up to £4,000 a year).

To claim the benefit, parents will need to open a tax-free childcare account online. For every 80p paid into the account, the government will top it up by 20p.

The scheme is available until the September after the child turns 11.

Universal credit- Working families on universal credit can claim back up to 85% of their monthly childcare costs, as long as the care is paid for upfront. The most you can claim per month is £951 for one child or £1,630 for two or more children.

Tax credits -People claiming working tax credit can get up to 70% of what they pay for childcare if their costs are no more than £175 per week for one child or £300 per work for multiple children.

07:41:57

'Loud budgeting': The money-saving trend that has nothing to do with giving up your daily coffee

By Jess Sharp, Money team

Money saving trends are constantly popping up on social media - but one in particular has been gaining huge amounts of attention.

Created accidentally by a comedian, loud budgeting is breaking down the taboo of speaking about money.

The idea is based on being firmer/more vocal about your financial boundaries in social situations and setting out what you are happy to spend your money on, instead of "Keeping up with the Joneses".

On TikTok alone, videos published under the hashtag #loudbudgeting have garnered more than 30 million views - and that figure is continuing to climb.

We spoke to Lukas Battle - the 26-year-old who unintentionally created the trend as part of a comedy sketch.

Based in New York, he came up with the term in a skit about the "quiet luxury" hype, which had spread online in 2023 inspired by shows like Succession.

The term was used for humble bragging about your wealth with expensive items that were subtle in their design - for example, Gwyneth Paltrow's £3,900 moss green wool coat from The Row, which she wore during her ski resort trial...

"I was never a big fan of the quiet luxury trend, so I just kind of switched the words and wrote 'loud budgeting is in'. I'm tired of spending money and I don't want to pretend to be rich," Lukas said.

"That's how it started and then the TikTok comments were just obsessed with that original idea."

This was the first time he mentioned it...

Lukas explained that it wasn't about "being poor" but about not being afraid of sharing your financial limits and "what's profitable for you personally".

"It's not 'skip a coffee a day and you'll become a millionaire'."

While talking money has been seen as rude or taboo, he said it's something his generation is more comfortable doing.

"I've seen more debate around the topic and I think people are really intrigued and attracted by the idea," he said.

"It's just focusing your spending and time on things you enjoy and cutting out the things you might feel pressured to spend your money on."

He has incorporated loud budgeting into his own life, telling his friends "it's free to go outside" and opting for cheaper dinner alternatives.

"Having the terminology and knowing it's a trend helps people understand it and there's no awkward conversation around it," he said.

The trend has been a big hit with so-called American "finfluencers", or "financial influencers", but people in the UK have started practising it as well.

Mia Westrap has taken up loud budgeting by embarking on a no-buy year and sharing her finances with her 11.3k TikTok followers.

Earning roughly £2,100 a month, she spends around £1,200 on essentials, like rent, petrol and car insurance, but limits what else she can purchase.

Clothes, fizzy drinks, beauty treatments, makeup, dinners out and train tickets are just some things on her "red list".

The 26-year-old PHD student first came across the idea back in 2017, but decided to take up the challenge this year after realising she was living "pay check to pay check".

She said her "biggest fear" in the beginning was that her friends wouldn't understand what she was doing, but she found loud budgeting helped.

"I'm still trying my best to just go along with what everyone wants to do but I just won't spend money while we do it and my friends don't mind that, we don't make a big deal out of it," she said.

So far, she has been able to save £1,700, and she said talking openly about her money has been "really helpful".

"There's no way I could have got this far if I wasn't baring my soul to the internet about the money I have spent. It has been a really motivating factor."

Financial expert John Webb said loud budgeting has the ability to help many "feel empowered" and create a "more realistic" relationship with money.

"This is helping to normalise having open and honest conversations about finances," the consumer affair manager at Experien said.

"It can also reduce the anxiety some might have by keeping their financial worries to themselves."

However, he warned it's important to be cautious and to take the reality of life into consideration.

"It could cause troubles within friendship groups if they're not on the same page as you or have different financial goals," he said.

"This challenge isn't meant to stop you from having fun, but it is designed to help people become more conscious and intentional when it comes to money, and reduce the stigma around talking about it."

07:41:34

What is the most in-demand period for a property?

Rightmove's keyword tool shows Victorian-era houses are the most commonly searched period properties, with people drawn to their ornate designs and features.

Georgian and Edwardian-style are second and third respectively, followed by Tudor properties. Regency ranked in fifth place.

Rightmove property expert Tim Bannister said: "Home hunters continue to be captivated by the character and charm of properties that we see in period dramas.

"Victorian homes remain particularly popular, characterised by their historic charm, solid construction, and spacious interiors. You'll often find Victorian houses in some of the most desirable locations which include convenient access to schools and transport links."

07:28:38

£12m tea advert, downsizing, £320 tasting menus and job interview mistakes: What readers have said this week

Throughout the week Money blog readers have shared their thoughts on the stories we've been covering, with the most correspondence coming in on...

  • A hotly contested debate on the best brand of tea
  • Downsizing homes
  • The cost of Michelin-starred food
  • Job interview mistakes

Tea

On Wednesday we reported on a new £12m ad from PG Tips in response to it falling behind rivals such as Twinings, Yorkshire Tea and Tetley....

We had lots of comments like this...

How on earth was the PG Tips advert so expensive? I prefer Tetley tea, PG Tips is never strong enough flavour for me.

Shellyleppard

The reason for the sales drop with PG Tips could be because they increased the price and reduced the quantity of bags from 240 to 180 - it's obvious.

Royston

And then this question which we've tried to answer below...

Why have PG Tips changed from Pyramid shape tea bags, to a square?

Sam

Last year PG Tips said it was changing to a square bag that left more room for leaves to infuse, as the bags wouldn't fold over themselves.

Downsizing

We reported on data showing how downsizing could save you money for retirement - more than £400,000, in some regions, by swapping four beds for two.

Some of our readers shared their experiences...

We are downsizing and moving South so it's costing us £100k extra for a smaller place, all money from retirement fund.

AlanNorth

Interesting read about downsizing for retirement. We recently did this to have the means to retire early at 52. However, we bought a house in the south of France for the price of a flat in our town in West Sussex. Now living the dream!

OliSarah

How much should we pay for food?

Executive chef at London'stwo-Michelin-starredIkoyi, Jeremy Chan, raised eyebrows when he suggested to the Money blog that Britons don't pay enough for restaurant food.

Ikoyi, the 35th best restaurant in the world, charges £320 for its tasting menu.

"I don't think people pay enough money for food, I think we charge too little, [but] we want to always be accessible to as many people as possible, we're always trying our best to do that," he said, in a piece about his restaurant's tie up with Uber Eats...

We had this in...

Are they serious? That is two weeks' worth of food shopping for me, if the rich can afford this "tasting menu" then they need to be taxed even more by the government, it's just crazy!

Steve T

If the rate of pay is proportionate to the vastly overpriced costs of the double Michelin star menu, I would gladly peel quail eggs for four-hour stints over continuing to be abused as a UK supply teacher.

AndrewWard

Does this two-star Michelin star chef live in the real world? Who gives a toss if he stands and peels his quails eggs for four hours, and he can get the best turbot from the fishmonger fresh on a daily basis? It doesn't justify the outrageous price he is charging for his tasting menu.

Topaztraveller

Chefs do make me laugh, a steak is just a steak, they don't make the meat! They just cook it like the rest of us, but we eat out because we can't be bothered cooking!

StevieGrah

Job interview mistakes

Finally, many of you reacted to this feature on common mistakes in job interviews...

Those 10 biggest mistakes people make in interviews is the dumbest thing I've ever read. They expect all that and they'll be offering a £25k a year job. Why wouldn't I want to know about benefits and basic sick pay? And also a limp handshake? How's that relevant to how you work?

Jre90

Others brought their own tips...

Whenever I go for an interview I stick to three points:

1. Be yourself

2. Own the interview

3. Wear the clothes that match the job you are applying

Kevin James Blakey

07:21:53

Where has a huge week for the UK economy left us?

Two big economic moments dominated the news agenda in Money this week - interest rates and GDP.

As expected, the Bank of England held the base rate at 5.25% on Wednesday - but a shift in language was instructive about what may happen next.

Bank governor Andrew Bailey opened the door to a summer cut to 5%, telling reporters that an easing of rates at the next Monetary Policy Committee meeting on 20 June was neither ruled out nor afait accompli.

More surprisingly, he suggested that rate cuts, when they start, could go deeper "than currently priced into market rates".

He refused to be drawn on what that path might look like - but markets had thought rates could bottom out at 4.5% or 4.75% this year, and potentially 3.5% or 4% next.

"To make sure that inflation stays around the 2% target - that inflation will neither be too high nor too low - it's likely that we will need to cut Bank rate over the coming quarters and make monetary policy somewhat less restrictive over the forecast period," Mr Bailey said.

You can read economics editor Ed Conway's analysis of the Bank's decision here...

On Friday we discovered the UK is no longer in recession.

Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.6% between January and March, the Office for National Statistics said.

This followed two consecutive quarters of the economy shrinking.

The data was more positive than anticipated.

"Britain is not just out of recession," wrote Conway. "It is out of recession with a bang."

The UK has seen its fastest growth since the tailend of the pandemic - and Conway picked out three other reasons for optimism.

1/ An economic growth rate of 0.6% is near enough to what economists used to call "trend growth". It's the kind of number that signifies the economy growing at more or less "normal" rates.

2/ 0.6% means the UK is, alongside Canada, the fastest-growing economy in the G7 (we've yet to hear from Japan, but economists expect its economy to contract in the first quarter).

3/ Third, it's not just gross domestic product that's up. So too is gross domestic product per head - the number you get when you divide our national income by every person in the country. After seven years without any growth, GDP per head rose by 0.4% in the first quarter.

GDP per head is a more accurate yardstick for the "feelgood factor", said Conway - perhaps meaning people will finally start to feel better off.

For more on where Friday's figures leaves us, listen to an Ian King Business Podcast special...

07:04:43

Welcome to Weekend Money

The Money blog is your place for consumer news, economic analysis and everything you need to know about the cost of living - bookmark news.sky.com/money.

It runs with live updates every weekday - while on Saturdays we scale back and offer you a selection of weekend reads.

Check them out this morning and we'll be back on Monday with rolling news and features.

The Money team is Emily Mee, Bhvishya Patel, Jess Sharp, Katie Williams, Brad Young and Ollie Cooper, with sub-editing by Isobel Souster. The blog is edited by Jimmy Rice.

22:02:29

Best of the Money blog - an archive

If you've missed any of the features we've been running in Money this year, or want to check back on something you've previously seen in the blog, this archive of our most popular articles may help...

MAY

APRIL

MARCH

FEBRUARY

JANUARY

20:30:01

Bread recalled after 'rat remains' found inside loaves

Loaves of bread have been recalled from shelves in Japan after they were found to contain the remains of a rat.

Production of the bread in Tokyo has been halted after parts of a "small animal" were found by at least two people.

Pasco Shikishima Corp, which produces the bread, said 104,000 packages have been recalled as it apologised and promised compensation.

A company representative toldSky News's US partner network, NBC News, that a "small black rat" was found in the bread. No customers were reported to have fallen ill as a result of ingesting the contaminated bread.

"We deeply apologise for the serious inconvenience and trouble this has caused to our customers, suppliers, and other concerned parties," the spokesman said.

Pasco added in a separate statement that "we will do our utmost to strengthen our quality controls so that this will never happen again. We ask for your understanding and your co-operation."

Japanese media reports said at least two people who bought the bread in the Gunma prefecture, north-west of Tokyo, complained to the company about finding a rodent in the bread.

18:45:01

Small fall in shopkeepers reporting thefts

Record levels of shoplifting appear to be declining as fewer shopkeepers reported thefts last year, new figures show.

A survey by the Office for National Statistics shows 26% of retailers experienced customer theft in 2023, down from a record high of 28% in 2022.

This comes despite a number of reports suggesting shoplifting is becoming more frequent.

Aseparate ONS finding, which used police crime data, showed reports of shoplifting were at their highest level in 20 years in 2023, with law enforcements logging 430,000 instances of the crime.

17:30:01

Rival circling Cazoo | BA profits take off | Tata Steel strike edges closer

Let's get you up to speed on the biggest business news of the past 24 hours.

A privately owned used-car platform is circling Cazoo Group, its stricken US-listed rival, which is on the brink of administration.

Sky News has learnt that Motors.co.uk is a leading contender to acquire Cazoo's marketplace operation, which would include its brand and intellectual property assets.

The process to auction the used-car platform's constituent parts comes after it spent tens of millions of pounds on sponsorship deals in football, snooker and darts in a rapid attempt to gain market share.

The owner of British Airways has reported a sharp rise in profits amid soaring demand for trips and a fall in the cost of fuel.

International Airlines Group said its operating profit for the first three months of the year was €68m (£58.5m) - above expectations and up from €9m (£7.7m) during the same period in 2023.

The company, which also owns Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, said earnings had soared thanks to strong demand, particularly over the Easter holidays.

The prospect of a strike across Tata Steel's UK operations has gained further traction after a key union secured support for industrial action.

Community, which has more than 3,000 members, said 85% voted in favour of fighting the India-owned company's plans forup to 2,800 job losses, the majority of them at the country's biggest steelworks in Port Talbot, South Wales.

Tataconfirmed last monthit was to press ahead with theclosure of the blast furnacesat the plant, replacing them with electric arc furnaces to reduce emissions and costs.

In doing so, the company rejected an alternative plan put forward by the Community, GMB and Unite unions that, they said, would raise productivity and protect jobs across the supply chain.

Money blog: Major free childcare change kicks in today as parents of younger children can now apply (2024)

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