More childcare support planned

mehboob khan, for FOI story
mehboob khan, for FOI story

MORE families in Kirklees are set to benefit from free childcare under a flagship scheme.

The scheme, approved by Kirklees Council this week, will offer greater support to help parents of young children get into work.

It aims to improve early education opportunities for disadvantaged children, while helping parents who make a commitment to work, study or train.

Prior to Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, council leader Mehboob Khan said many parents who wanted to move into work were trapped in a vicious circle.

He said: “The financial cost of childcare can be a real barrier that stops local people going into education or employment.

“By funding free places for eligible families, we can help those people to access high-quality childcare which then allows them time to work or gain qualifications – and that means they are more able to support themselves.”

But during the meeting itself, he took an apparent swipe at parents who received government-funded nursery provision and did nothing to find work.

He raised concerns about how the government set national eligibility criteria currently under review.

Coun Khan (Lab, Greenhead) said “The concern we have is that it needs to closely linked into people’s ability to be able to move out of unemployment and into work via various routes available to them, and not be seen as a scheme that perpetuates the circle of poverty by encouraging parents to watch uninterrupted daytime TV whilst their children are on a subsidised state two-year-old nursery provision.”

The government wants all councils to fund 15 hours free early education and childcare for 20 per cent of children from 2013, rising to 40 per cent in 2014.

Kirklees Council has agreed to trial up to 25 hours of free childcare per week during term-time for eligible parents with children aged up to 14 months or children with special needs and disabilities aged up to 18 months.

It will also expand the current system of free childcare for two-year-olds so that more families qualify.