National scheme is aimed at low-income families who receive certain benefits
Parents across Manchester are being urged to check if their toddlers qualify for free childcare – with 15 hours of early education a week on offer to two-year-olds thanks to a national scheme.
Children are eligible from the beginning of the school term after their second birthday, with the government doubling the number of free places.
Children who were two before August 31 could qualify for a free childcare place from this month.
The service is offered to low-income families and those who receive certain benefits, such as free school meals, income support and Child Tax Credit.
Households must have a gross income of less than £16,190.
The 15-hour entitlement is already available to all three and four-year-olds.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said the move will help thousands more children ‘get a brighter start in life’.
One parent already benefiting from the scheme, Collette Bradley, says her daughter Esmee, three, has quickly progressed after attending Tiddly Winks Nursery in Higher Blackley since October.
Collette, 34, said: “Esmee was a poorly baby and was very clingy. I couldn’t leave her with anyone and she wouldn’t talk to anyone we met outside.
“It took about five or six weeks before I could leave her at nursery on her own, but the staff really helped me – it’s been brilliant. She loves it and even asks to go into nursery on the days she’s not in.
“Her speaking skills are great now. Before she went to nursery she wouldn’t speak to anyone she didn’t know, and would play on her own.
“But now she talks to people, shares things, and loves playing with other children.
“Nursery has really done her the world of good and she can’t run off fast enough from me when we get there in the mornings.”
Executive member for Manchester town hall, Coun Sheila Newman, said: “We know that early education is great for children.
“Those who take part get better at talking, making friends, and are better prepared when it comes to starting school.
“This is a great offer for parents and carers who could use their 15 hours of child-free time each week to take a course, find a part-time job, get some exercise, or catch up on things around the house, happy in the knowledge that their child is safe.”
For more information, visit manchester.gov.uk/freechildcare.