A pilot scheme offering 30 hours of free childcare to eligible parents in Northumberland has now been launched.
Northumberland is one of the first areas in England to offer the Government’s extended free childcare offer to support parents.
The Government pledged £13million to more than double the number of free hours available for three and four-year-olds, with the council being given funding for 25 per cent of the eligible population.
The county was chosen following huge levels of interest from a number of areas keen to deliver the offer a year early and will help to get the delivery of the offer right before it is extended to the rest of the country in September 2017.
Coun Robert Arckless, cabinet member for children’s services at Northumberland County Council, said: “The pilot has clearly caught the imagination of councils across the country and I am proud that we are able to help shape the scheme before the national rollout in 2017, but we also acknowledge that there are concerns from some providers around levels of funding. We will watch with interest to see how the initiative unfolds over the coming year.”
The trial will provide a number of eligible, rural, working families with 30 hours of childcare each week, totalling 1,140 hours which can be taken flexibly over the year.
Hannah, a parent from Alnwick, said: “The extra childcare is a great help, not only financially, but I believe it will really benefit my child and help them to be more ready for school. The extra hours are providing me with the opportunity to return to work from maternity leave and only worry about the costs for one child which makes a huge difference to our finances and family as a whole.”
All 361 approved early-years providers in Northumberland are willing to take part, playing a crucial role in giving every child the best start in life.