26 June 2013

Parents of two year olds across Northamptonshire are being reminded that they could get free early learning for their children thanks to the countywide rollout of a funding project.

Northamptonshire County Council has extended a project previously trialled in Wellingborough to provide up to 15 hours a week free access to approved day nurseries, childminders and pre-schools for two year old children who meet the eligibility criteria.

What does the funding cover?

The free access covers the cost up to 570 hours a year. Parents are required to pay for any additional hours.

Cabinet member for children and education, Councillor Catherine Boardman, said: “From September, families all over the UK who qualify will be able to send their two year olds to an approved nursery, childminder or pre-school.

“The good news for Northamptonshire is that we’ve made funding available since April so our children have already been able to take advantage of it. Families who would otherwise be unable to afford it are seeing their toddlers benefit from learning and social opportunities.”

What are the benefits?

Jane Hawkins, Early Years Manager of Happy Days Childcare based at Ecton Brook Children's Centre, said: “Good early years education from a young age can help to enhance a child’s learning and development. Perhaps what’s less obvious but just as important are the benefits to parents of taking up free places.

“As any parent knows, looking after small children full time can be hard work at times and for single parents particularly, it can be very isolating.

“By taking advantage of the funded sessions, they will be able to meet a network of parents with similar needs to them, find out about workshops and groups they might be interested in or just have some personal time for themselves.”

There are over 1,500 two year olds in the county who could be eligible, with 698 children currently having a funded place.

How do I check if I qualify?

To be eligible for funding a family must have an income below £16,190 and be claiming particular state benefits. Parents can find out more and check if they qualify using the council’s online eligibility checker.

Parents who don’t have internet access at home can visit their local library where there is free use of the council website or they can talk to somebody in their nearest Children’s Centre.