Northumberland County Council is inviting working parents of three and four-year-olds to apply for a pilot initiative providing 30 hours of free childcare from September 2016.
As we reported earlier this year, Northumberland is one of just eight councils across the country to receive Government funding to deliver double the amount of free childcare currently available.
The pilot aims to address the issues that make it a challenge for parents to access childcare – with rurality and flexibility of childcare the main factors that Northumberland is to consider.
The trial will provide some rural working families with 30 hours’ childcare per week, 38 weeks of the year, totalling 1,140 hours which can be taken flexibly over the year. It will allow the Department of Education to test the delivery of the additional 15 hours in preparation for the full roll-out in September 2017.
Unfortunately, funding for the pilot only covers 25 per cent of eligible families in Northumberland, limiting the amount of parents that will benefit during the pilot year.
Coun Robert Arckless, cabinet member for children’s services at Northumberland County Council, said: “We are delighted to be part of this initiative and that families in Northumberland will be among the first to benefit. Northumberland is a large and diverse county, and we hope that the extra hours of childcare will make it easier for parents in the area to work.”
Eligibility for a place on the pilot from September 2016 will be determined by two factors:
National criteria – Families where both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone-parent family) and each parent earns the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum or living wage but less than £100,000 a year.
Rural classification – Families with specific Northumberland addresses linked to national data based on rural-urban classification and geographical barriers.
The application process for the programme will follow a phased approach with the most rural addresses in Northumberland now being invited to apply first.
To find out if your address is eligible during this first phase and apply for a place, visit www.northumberland.gov.uk by Friday, May 6. Type your postcode into My Place (top right-hand side of the home page) and see the Extended Entitlement – 30-hour childcare option within the Schools and education subheading.