Free Childcare Places Set To Rise For Poor Families, Claim Ministers

Up to 140,000 two-year-olds from poor homes could benefit from plans to extend free nursery education, ministers have claimed.

The Government is publishing proposals which it says will give parents more "flexibility" in childcare, amid concerns that some youngsters are missing out.

Under the plans, which are out for consultation, free early education would be available 7am to 7pm.

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg first announced plans to give all two-year-olds from poor homes 15 hours of free early education in October last year.

All three and four-year-olds in England are currently eligible for this amount.

Under the current system, first introduced by the last Government, some of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds also receive between 10 and 15 hours of free early education.

Ministers claimed that the numbers of free places for these youngsters was set to rise from around 20,000 to around 140,000 a year.

Children's minister Sarah Teather said: "We want more children to be able to access their full early education entitlement. Too often, the most disadvantaged children don't get what they are entitled to."

She added: "We also want to make the entitlement more flexible, so that children don't miss out on early education and parents can help balance their work and family life more easily."