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Child's Play: •Free kid care rules to be relaxed: •Time limit extended by two hours

May 31, 2012 2:21 PM
By GRAEME WILSON, Deputy Political Editor in The Sun
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

NEW rules are to make it easier for working parents to use their 15 hours a week of free childcare.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg will this week announce the system is to be more flexible for mums and dads who start work early or finish late.

Under current rules, parents can only take their free nursery care between 8am and 6pm. But many people struggle to make this fit in with their shifts. The time limit will now be extended by two hours, letting parents use their free entitlement from 7am to 7pm.

Existing rules also mean the 15 hours must be spread over at least three days each week. This will be reduced to two days under the reforms.

Ministers believe the changes will help parents who cannot take jobs at the moment because the free childcare does not cover their working hours.

The move comes amid growing anger at the soaring cost of childcare for millions of hard-pressed families.

Mr Clegg told The Sun: "This is a fantastic boost to parents who work hard and want the best for their kids.

"There's no doubt that families are finding it hard to juggle work and childcare, that's why we're strengthening and investing in free early education more than before. I want to make sure this free early education entitlement is flexible for parents and offers high-quality care for children. This is all part of a transformation to make significant changes to our childcare system."

Around 95 per cent of three and four-year-olds, around 800,000 children, get 15 hours of childcare a week. Ministers plan to extend this to thousands of two-year-olds from poorer families.