Thousands of pounds worth of free childcare is going unclaimed by some Derbyshire families who could be getting their two year olds looked after for free.
Up to 15 hours of free childcare a week is available to families on low incomes or on certain benefits who have a child aged two. But some of the money has not been claimed.
To encourage families to take up the offer, Derbyshire County Council has launched on online checker so they can find out more easily if they qualify.
Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, Councillor Kevin Gillott, is urging anyone who thinks they might be entitled to go online to find out at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/freechildcare
He said: “Helping children get the best start in life is one of our priorities.
“We offer all three-year-olds in the county free childcare, but there’s extra funding available to help some families with younger children. This includes families on low incomes, families who have adopted or fostered a child or those getting disability living allowance for their toddler.
“Good quality childcare in the early years can really help families,” he added. “Not only does it help children enjoy new experiences and learn to play with other children, it could free up time for mums or dads to do other things.
“It could also help people get back into work or reduce childcare bills for working families on low pay.”
To qualify for free childcare for a two-year-old, families need to:
* Have a household income of less than £16,190 a year and be in receipt of Working Tax Credits
* Or, be claiming certain benefits, including; income support or job seekers’ allowance.
The hours don’t have to be in a formal setting such as a nursery. The funding can also be used with a childminder or local pre-school. The hours are also flexible and can be taken in term-time only or spread throughout the year.
Funding starts in the term following a child’s second birthday. So, if your child turned two before March 31 this year, they can take up a place now. Children turning two between April 1 and August 31, 2014, can start in September and those turning two between September 1 and December 31 get funding from next January.
Councillor Gillott added: “This funding is good news for thousands of families in Derbyshire. Things are tough at the moment and I am glad we can help families who might be struggling.
“Childcare is expensive and if we can help keep more money in the pocket of families it will help them through difficult times.
“Three-year-olds already benefit from it. By extending it to younger children we are offering families the opportunity to benefit even earlier.”
Fill in our online checker to find out if you are eligible for free childcare at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/freechildcare or call our team on 01629 539316/7 during office hours.