Boost for early years care

Early years education and care for two-year-olds will receive a £7.1m boost, thanks to Kirklees Council.

The council has brought forward plans by four months to help more families in the area.

Under government proposals, local authorities have to provide 15 hours of free care for eligible families.

Kirklees Council had already began the scheme to assist 20 per cent of those eligible - and they are set to help another 20 per cent from April this year.

It is thought more than 1,000 children have already benefited from the service.

Overall, up to 2,900 children could soon involved in the programme.

Coun Peter O’Neill (Lab, Batley West), cabinet member for children’s services, said: “There is sound evidence that having a good start in life, is critical to a child’s life chances.

“Good quality pre-school provision improves child development, helps a child to be school ready, giving improved outcomes in later childhood and better life chances in adulthood.

“Also it allows parents to seek opportunities in employment, which for some families, is a fundamental means of escaping poverty.”

Coun O’Neill said bringing the plans forward would help give the council time to reach all those who meet the criteria.

He added: “It was also decided to extend the criteria even earlier for those low paid working parents, struggling with the cost of living, who are already paying for childcare.

“They will get 15 hours free childcare immediately. This will benefit the parents of about 116 children and will make a real difference to their family finances.”

The scheme has created 250 jobs and provided 32 young people with work experience placements in six months.