The new Childcare Act, passed into law on 11 July, is truly pioneering legislation and is the first ever exclusively concerned with early years and childcare. The Act will help transform childcare and early years services in England for generations to come, taking forward some of the key commitments from the Ten Year Childcare Strategy published in December 2004.
Measures in the Act formalise the important strategic role local authorities play through a set of new duties. These duties will require authorities to improve the five ECM outcomes for all pre-school children and reduce inequalities in these outcomes; secure sufficient childcare for working parents; and provide a better parental information service. The Bill also reforms and simplifies early years regulation and inspection arrangements providing for a new integrated education and care quality framework (for pre-school children) and the new Ofsted Childcare Register. The aim is that the Act's main provisions will come into effect in 2008.