PARENTS across Staffordshire are being reminded about the opportunity to access free, high quality childcare for their two-year olds.
The reminder comes on the back of a review published in February by the Family and Childcare Trust which claims that the average cost of a part-time nursery place for a child under two has risen 33% since 2010.
Staffordshire County Council’s Think2 scheme provides 15 hours free childcare per week during term time, and is available to parents who receive Working Tax Credits and whose household income is below £16,190.
Over three thousand of Staffordshire’s two year olds have already qualified for the free places which is giving many parents the chance to retrain and get back into work.
Cllr Mike Lawrence, Cabinet Lead for Children at Staffordshire County Council, explained that giving children access to high quality childcare was great for their development and it was important that it was affordable and that as many parents as possible could access it.
Mike said: “We have been incredibly pleased with the success of our scheme and it is good to see that most eligible parents are taking advantage of the free places. Not only does the scheme benefit children but it also helps their parents by freeing up their time to retrain or find a job.
“Parents need to be confident that while their children are out of their care they’re not only safe, happy and having fun but at the same time learning and developing important skills like playing nicely together, speaking, and understanding words, letters and numbers. And, with evidence showing that children from nursery and high quality childcare provision outperform their peers at school, it’s great for their overall development. I would encourage people to check if they are eligible.”
Staffordshire has seen significant improvements in the quality of childcare, with around 84% of the county’s providers now rated as either good or outstanding.
The free childcare is provided by local nurseries, child minders or pre-schools and is available across the county. Anyone meeting the benefits criteria for free school meal eligibility also qualify, and being on the scheme does not affect people’s benefits.
Parents can check if they are eligible and apply online at http://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/think2or call 0300 111 8007.
The annual review from the Family and Childcare Trust can be found on their website athttp://www.familyandchildcaretrust.org/