The verdict from Linda, Mechelle and Lesley

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Linda Kitchener lives in Martham, Norfolk. She is a single mother of three children, Lee, nine, Anne-Marie, seven, and Kelly-Anne, four.

I've been on my own since March, so financially things have been very tight over the last few months. The older two children are at school, but I can't get a job while Kelly-Anne is small. That means I have pounds 84 a week income support for the four of us, which isn't a great deal. Paying for Kelly-Anne's playgroup took quite a bit out of that, at pounds 2 a session, so before the nursery vouchers were introduced I could only afford to send her for two mornings a week.

It was a real relief when I heard about the vouchers and realised I was eligible for them. Since April Kelly-Anne has gone to playgroup five mornings a week, and it has made a big difference to her. She speaks more and does well with her work; she comes home telling me her alphabet and counting, and brings pictures and drawings - today she even brought home a little loaf of bread she'd made.

The vouchers are worth about pounds 40 a month to me, but that's money that I couldn't afford to spend on Kelly-Anne anyway. It's not a lot for some people, but it is a huge amount for me.

I don't think two mornings a week is enough for her now, she needs more teaching than I can give her at home.

Now she's there five mornings she's getting extra encouragement that I can't give her. It just makes life that tiny bit easier.

Mechelle Martin lives in Southery, near Downham Market, Norfolk. She is married with three children, Eric, six, Leia, four, and Joseph, six months.

My husband, Darren, has always been on a very low income. He's a store keeper with the civil service, but the pay is dreadful, and we've always had to struggle to get things for the children. We moved here a year ago, and although Leia wanted to go to playgroup every day then, it was the most we could do to send her three days a week. At pounds 1.95 a day, that meant we were already having to find about pounds 25 a month.

Then the playgroup leader told us we'd be entitled to the nursery vouchers, and from April we've been able to send Leia there five days a week. I think they're terrific because it means that my daughter is spending time with other chidren and getting the kind of help she needs. She's very forward and likes to learn - when she was at home with me for two days I just couldn't keep her amused all day.

I'm all in favour of the vouchers, and it doesn't really bother me if other people are getting them who could afford to send their children to playgroup anyway.

All parents want to give their children a good start in life, but it's hard when money is tight. At this age I think my daughter needs all the learning she can get.

Lesley Parkin lives in Westminster and is married with two children, Matthew, eight, and Charlotte, four.

I was pleased to be getting the vouchers because although the fees for Charlotte's playgroup weren't high by some people's standards, every little helps when you've not got a lot of money. I was paying pounds 5.50 a week for her to be there for a couple of hours every morning, and not to have to find that pounds 20 a month was great.

The only disadvantage from our point of view is that the scheme started too late for Charlotte to get much out of it. The vouchers last until your child's fifth birthday, and she'll be five in October, so we've really only had the benefits of it for this last term. But something is better than nothing. My husband, Wayne, is a postman, and I can't work while Charlotte is only at playgroup for a couple of hours a day.

When something like this comes along it's just as if your child had been given a free ticket to somewhere.