Free childcare for poor Sheffield families

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PARENTS say a new scheme to give nearly 2,000 disadvantaged youngsters in Sheffield free childcare will ‘make a difference’ to families facing rising costs.

From next year, 1,900 two-year-olds in the city will benefit from an early years education shake-up – announced by Hallam MP and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

Rotherham has also been chosen as one of 10 places to trial the scheme, with 89 places offered in the private, voluntary and independent sectors from this September.

It will be extended in Sheffield, and nationwide, in September 2013.

Mum Lara Joyce said her daughter Amber, two, benefited from free childcare after losing her sight and undergoing surgery on a brain tumour.

Lara, of Gleadless, added: “It does make a heck of a lot of difference because it is so expensive and they have to keep putting the prices up.

“There’s a lot of people I have spoken to who’ve had kids and say it’s not worth going back to work because of the cost.”

Currently all children aged three and four are eligible for 15 hours of free early education per week.

Under the extension parents of children on free places will also be able to drop youngsters off an hour earlier and collect them an hour later to increase flexibility for workers.

Sheffield mum-of-two Tracey Wilson, a local Government officer, said: “It will probably be the difference between somebody staying at home and going out to work.”

The roll-out will also allow parents to spread their free nursery place over two days rather than three.

Mr Clegg said it would help give children a ‘fair start in life’.

He added: “All the evidence shows this kind of intervention makes a real difference to a child’s life chances, helping to stop them falling behind their classmates.

“I’m delighted part of South Yorkshire has been selected to benefit from the early roll-out. This will see families able to take advantage of our investment from September with the rest of South Yorkshire seeing free childcare rolled out in 2013.”