Most of us are familiar with that feeling of uncertainty that comes with yet another move. For many of you, an area that’s often overlooked by the process is childcare.

AFF’s survey last year showed that 55 per cent of respondents felt that there was a limited choice of childcare settings. “I feel as a working mum who’s married to someone in the army, it’s always down to me to find suitable childcare, which gives me so much stress and anxiety.”

It’s an area that’s been recognised by the MOD and steps are being made to improve the quality of provision that’s available. The Directorate Children and Young People (DCYP) has recently established a Childcare Support Team (CST) and Debra Barton is their early years specialist, who’s keen to work alongside settings and local authorities across the UK to bring together good practice and enhance understanding. We asked her to tell us more…

What is DCYP’s role specifically in early years?

Our team currently has two main priorities – the launch of wraparound childcare pilots to help inform what a future rollout might look like; gathering evidence of childcare challenges, particularly around deployment.

What’s the minimum that military families can expect from an early years setting?

It depends on which part of the UK you’re in. You may be eligible for 15 or 30 hours per week funded childcare in term time. Tax-free childcare is also available if you meet the eligibility criteria.

You should look for a setting that’s regulated and inspected for quality and safety. This is provided by Ofsted in England, Care Inspectorate in Scotland, Care Inspectorate in Wales and Early Years Teams in Northern Ireland. More information can be found on their websites.

How do you encourage best practice to support service families?

Settings are expected to provide an early learning curriculum based on a standard framework. It includes personal, social and emotional development, and physical and communication skills, which are developed through activities and interactions with others. Settings will be able to provide more information, and we encourage you to spend time talking to them about their offer.

What advice would you give to families who are having difficulty accessing suitable childcare?

Speak to the community development workers, as they work with the chain of command on the needs analysis for local authorities, or their childcare sufficiency team may be able to help.

DCYP has lots of useful information on education and childcare for service families at gov.uk or you can email them at DCYPCEAS-Enquiries@mod.gov.uk

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