Kirklees families to benefit from free childcare up to age of 14

By Mathew Little

| 20 August 2012

A local authority in West Yorkshire has announced plans to trial free childcare for parents of children up to the age of 14.

A local authority in West YKirklees council is offering free childcare for children up to the age of 14. Image: David McCullough

Kirklees Council, which covers areas including Huddersfield and Dewsbury, is to trial the scheme for families on jobseeker’s allowance.

Up to 25 hours free childcare during term time will be made available for children up to the age of 14 from eligible families. The families of children with special educational needs or a disability will be entitled to take part in the initiative until their children turn 18.

Mehboob Khan, leader of Kirklees Council, said the scheme would be one of the council’s flagship programmes for supporting families.

“Evidence suggests that children who attend high-quality childcare settings are better prepared for starting school and perform better as they move through the education system,” he said.

Single parents’ charity Gingerbread backed the scheme. Chief executive Fiona Weir said: “Access to affordable childcare is crucial to make work financially viable for single parents, yet costs are spiralling across the country, central government support has been cut and availability is patchy. 

“We welcome this trial of free childcare from Kirklees Council and look forward to seeing the results. We hope to see more councils taking similar action to support more parents into work.”

A report for Kirklees Council’s cabinet said the costs of childcare could become a barrier to improving family life.

The council is also planning an early roll out of their trial to offer 10 hours of free childcare to all two-year-olds who are eligible for free school meals.

From September 2013 all councils will have to offer 15 hours free childcare to the 20 per cent most disadvantaged two-year-olds.

“Kirklees Council is committed to enabling more children to access free high quality early education and this paper proposes an early roll out of the programme before legislation comes into force,” a Kirklees Council Cabinet report said.

The total cost of the schemes up to 2015 is estimated to be £8.6m. “This funding would represent a considerable investment in the childcare sector over the next few years,” the cabinet report said.

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