Free childcare trials fast-tracked to 2016

Plans to double the free childcare for working parents in England have been fast-tracked.

Parents of three and four-year-olds will be granted 30 hours a week of free childcare from September 2016 - double the current entitlement.

The scheme - announced in the Childcare Bill in last week's Queen's Speech - is being rolled out a year earlier than planned.

Speaking ahead of the announcement, David Cameron said he was "pressing ahead with these reforms so that not a moment is lost in getting on with the task, going further than ever before to help with childcare costs".

Employment minister Priti Patel told Good Morning Britain a consultation would be launched with all childcare providers before the summer.

But the Pre-School Learning Alliance warned the childcare system faces "meltdown" if the Government does not increase the amount it pays providers.

It said the total cost to the sector will be approximately £1.95 billion per year but funding at current rates amounts to £1.7 billion - a potential shortfall of £250 million.

Its chief executive Neil Leitch told the BBC: "Extending funded hours without first tackling this shortfall is clearly only going to make a bad situation worse."