Free childcare extended to thousands more parents


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The Independent Online

Thousands more parents of two-year-old children are to be allowed free childcare, Nick Clegg will announce today.

A new scheme to help the poorest families with childcare costs came into force yesterday, and will be extended next September, doubling the number of households who qualify.

Ministers are hoping that the announcement will answer some of the criticism levelled at the system of tax-free childcare vouchers announced by the Chancellor George Osborne in his March budget because the main beneficiaries were going to be working parents on relatively high incomes.

The households who now qualify for 15 hours a week of free childcare for two-years-olds, under a scheme that came into force yesterday, are those at the bottom of the income scale who qualify for free school meals. From September 2014, the scheme will take in all families whose annual income is below £16,190 and who receive working tax credits.

The scheme will double the number of two-year-olds who could be receiving free childcare to 260,000 or about 40 per cent of the total.