Demand from parents for childcare places in Wigan borough as it pilots the landmark 30 free hours offer has tipped the scales, with more than 5,400 places already allocated – surpassing the 5,000 target set last year.
As the programme prepares for its national roll-out in September, parents in Leigh have been the latest to benefit locally with 150 extra places made available since Christmas.
The 30 hours offer is already available for working parents of three and four-year-olds in Wigan and seven other areas testing the scheme and is saving families around £5,000 per year and helping them get back to work or increase their hours if they choose to.
James Winterbottom, director for children’s services at Wigan Council, said: “We are delighted to be able to play our part in giving families the chance to benefit from 30 hours’ free childcare.
“Already we are hearing of so many families whose lives have been transformed through being able to take on more hours at work and further training.
“All the more satisfying is hearing about the positive impact the additional care is having on children, making them more ready for school.”
Confirmation that over 5,400 parents have already been allocated free places comes just one week after the government launched its Childcare Choices website: www.childcarechoices.gov.uk.
The site sets out details of all of the childcare support available for parents from across the government and allows them to register for email alerts that will notify them when applications for 30 hours open nationally.
From this week, all eligible parents in Dorset will be able to access the 30 hours offer as part of the early roll out programme.
Dorset was one of four new councils announced in January to join the scheme. Parents in Leicestershire, North Yorkshire and Tower Hamlets will follow suit later this month, building on the success so far testing the delivery challenges and benefits to parents.
The 30 hour offer builds on the record investment the government is putting into childcare – £6bn per year by 2020.
The aim is to make it easier for parents to work and earn more in the years before their children start school and will also provide a financial boost to working parents who already pay for childcare.
The Department for Education has invested £50m of capital grants for childcare projects in England, creating almost 9,000 more 30-hour childcare places in September, and is due to invest further grant funding from the same bid round