Suffolk: Free childcare for two-year-olds fully subscribed just months after funding made available
PUBLISHED: 10:15 13 January 2014 | UPDATED: 10:15 13 January 2014
Free childcare for two-year-olds offered by Suffolk County Council is already fully subscribed just months after funding for it was made available.
Suffolk County Council received nearly £5 million in funding from the Department of Education in order to provide free early years education for two-year-old children from low-income families.
The funding was granted on the basis that there were 1,293 two-year-olds eligible for free childcare in Suffolk, according to estimates from the Department for Education.
However as of last month the county council had funded 1,346 places, up from 1,057 at the beginning of the term in September.
In November the Department for Education revealed that nation-wide only 70% of eligible children were benefitting from the scheme.
That equated to 92,000 of the 130,000 identified as eligible for up to 15 hours a week of free early years education.
The number of children eligible will double to 260,000 as of September this year. However the Department for Education has said that in the future funding will be on a “use it or lose it” basis.
“The number of participating children will determine the amount of funding they get,” it said.
“Where parents are not taking up these places, local authorities will get less money.”
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said it was expected that they would receive more funding when the eligibility is expanded in September.
The national budget for early years education funding is expected to increase from £500 to £760 million in 2014 and 2015.
The Department for Work and Pensions provides Suffolk County Council with the details of families in the area who are eligible for free childcare for two-year-olds, which the council then uses to contact those families who are not already accessing a place.
Childcare Minister Elizabeth Truss said: “Research shows that a third of children are starting school without basic language and communication skills. In poorer areas, this rises to more than a half.
“Good quality teacher-led early years education helps children develop the social skills and vocabulary they need for learning, and as Baroness Morgan has pointed out, school nurseries can offer these places as well as childminders and nurseries.”