Free childcare hours doubled in Northumberland
Working parents in Northumberland will be among the first to take advantage of 30 hours of free childcare from September.
Eligible parents in Northumberland, along with seven other pilot areas, will benefit from the decision to double the number of free hours of childcare available for three and four-year-olds.
The Government announced £13 million to help the pilot areas prepare for the introduction of the expanded childcare allowance.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “For too long, rising childcare costs have been a barrier preventing parents and particularly mothers from working. That’s why I’m delighted that in just a few months’ time, we will see the first families benefiting from the Government’s offer of 30 hours’ free childcare for working parents. We have made a commitment to help working people, and through this extended offer we will help thousands more parents who want to return to work to do so.”
Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “This is great news for working parents across Northumberland. Doubling the amount of free childcare for working parents was a key pledge in the Conservative manifesto and I am delighted that we are delivering on it a year early in Northumberland. High childcare costs can be a real barrier for parents, in particular mothers, and I am pleased they will be more able to return to work should they choose to.”
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All three- and four-year-olds are already entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week, and this is also extended to the most disadvantaged two-year-olds. Last year, more than 1 million three- and four-year-olds, and 157,000 two-year-olds benefited from this offer.
The Department for Education will also be piloting a new contract with councils, and consulting on a fairer funding formula for the early years, to help ensure that local authorities are passing the money on to providers, and that providers are given a fair rate.
The government will also be looking at the issues that make it difficult for parents with particular challenges to access childcare, including Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. The core group of councils will be supported by 25 others, who will look specifically at innovative ways of making sure childcare is accessible to as many parents as possible.
Their experiences will then be used to support the full rollout in 2017, with the aim of removing significant barriers to parents taking up their entitlement.