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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.

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

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Free childcare 'already grossly underfunded'

The government grant to childcare providers for the existing 15 hours a week of free childcare is already "grossly underfunded", the Pre-School Learning Alliance has said.

Neil Leitch, Pre-School Learning Alliance chief executive Credit: PA Wire

Research for the charity suggests the government's plan to double this childcare would cost around £195bn a year, but funding at current rates amounts to £1.7bn - a potential shortfall of £250m.

Chief executive Neil Leitch said: "Simply raising funding rates by an arbitrary amount won't be enough - it is absolutely crucial that the Government ensures that the hourly rate of funding actually covers the cost of delivering funded places. Anything less risks destabilising a childcare system that is already struggling to stay afloat."

He warned an increasing number of providers may withdraw from the free childcare system if more money is not made available.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Leitch added: "There are many nurseries that can't physically extend their number of hours. They may operate in a church hall or community centre. Nobody has considered whether in fact they will be able to offer the 30 hours."

Read more: Free childcare trials fast-tracked to 2016

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