Working parents of three and four-year-olds in the North East will benefit from an additional 15 hours free childcare from September 2017, but concerns that the scheme is "underfunded" have been raised.
In the ITV Tyne Tees region, both Northumberland and York were selected by the Government to take part in a trial of the 30 hours free childcare scheme back in 2016.
The additional 15 hours free childcare comes on top of the 15 hours free childcare parents can already claim, taking the total free childcare allowance to 30 hours, which the Government say is for "hard-working parents of three and four-year-old's".
For countless working parents, the price of caring for those most priceless to them can be a struggle. The government's answer is 30 hours per week of free childcare in England.
Which families meet the 30 hours free childcare criteria?
- Both parents must be working.
- Both need to earn on average, the equivalent of 16 hours on the national minimum wage per week.
- Both must earn less than 100 thousand pounds a year.
How was the 30 hours free childcare trial received?
ITV Tyne Tees has found that the scheme has received a mixed response. Some feel the scheme has many benefits, one of which is that it makes childcare affordable. Others are concerned that the scheme is "underfunded" and could have a negative impact on the finances of some private nurseries.
Haxby Road Primary Academy in York took part in the 30 hour free childcare pilot scheme.
Lauren Powell is one parent from York who benefitted from the 30 hour childcare scheme. She drops off her three year old daughter Ella into nursery at the school where she also works as a teaching assistant. It's one of the areas where 30 free hours of childcare is being piloted and without it, she says she could not have afforded childcare while she worked.
Childcare providers don't have to offer the 30 hours from September, it's entirely optional.
The owner of a private nursery in Pateley Bridge in Harrogate already has some concerns over how the government is funding the scheme. Bruce Warnes says ministers are expecting champagne nurseries on a lemonade budget and that nurseries like his may be forced to increase fees for children outside the scheme.
The Pre-School Learning Alliance, representing childcare providers, agrees, warning that some nurseries may be forced to close.
The government told ITV Tyne Tees they're committed to helping families access high quality, affordable childcare.
Other areas across the country that have benefitted from the 30 hour childcare pilot are:
The eight councils which have already been offering the hours as part of an ‘early implementer’ trial since September 2016, will be joined by Dorset, Leicester, North Yorkshire and Tower Hamlets in April 2017 before the national roll out in September 2017.