Parents take advantage of free childcare places in Portsmouth’s pilot scheme

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WORKING parents in Portsmouth have taken advantage of a free childcare scheme.

The scheme launched last month and it has seen a take up rate from parents of more than 50 per cent.

The city was picked as one of eight places in England to benefit from a decision to double the number of free hours of childcare available for three and four-year-olds.

The government gave £13m to help the pilot areas prepare for the introduction of the expanded childcare allowance.

Councillor Neill Young, who in charge of education at Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘In Portsmouth we have had about 75 per of nurseries signing up to the scheme and about 70 per cent of childminders signing up to it.

‘As a pilot we have received more money as we needed to do evaluations etcetera, but when the real scheme comes in next year we will be about 30p per child better off.’

As part of the trial, the additional 15 hours of free childcare is available for families where both parents are working, or the sole parent is working in a lone-parent family, and each earns at least the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum or living wage but less than £28,000 a year.

At the time the scheme was announced, shadow childcare minister Jenny Chapman said the scheme would help with rising childcare costs, which have grown risen 30 per cent since 2010, leading to the number of childcare places falling by over 40,000. The scheme is expected to roll out nationally next September.