Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has called on community nurses and health visitors to help inform low income parents about new free childcare available to them.
This week, around 20% of two-year-olds in England became eligible for 15 hours per week of free childcare based on whether their family qualifies for free school meals.
From next September that percentage will double to 40% of two-year-olds – up from 130,000 children to 260,000 – when the offer of free childcare is extended to families that earn less than £16,190 and receive working tax credits.
Children who have been adopted, are in care or have a disability or special educational needs will also be covered by the scheme from next year.
The extension of free childcare in 2014 was unveiled this week by Mr Clegg. The scheme will cost £534m this year, rising to £760m in 2014-15.
Mr Clegg said: “Health visitors, community nurses and other health professionals know more than many what a massive difference good quality early years education can make in the first years of a child’s life.
“They have a huge role to play in giving families the right start in life and I’d urge them to take a minute to tell eligible families about this offer and help their two-year-olds,” he told Nursing Times.
“All the evidence shows that if you take two children – two five-year-olds hanging up their coats next to each other on the first day of school – the poorer child will already be behind their better off classmate before a single lesson has been taught,” he added.
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