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Government expands 30-hour ‘free childcare’ trial

Dorest, Leicester, North Yorkshire and Tower Hamlets join the government’s 30 hours scheme ahead of schedule
Four more councils have signed up to the government’s 30-hour ‘free childcare’ scheme, ahead of the nationwide roll-out in September.
Eight councils have already been offering the hours as part of an ‘early implementer’ trial since September 2016. They will now be joined by Dorset, Leicester, North Yorkshire and Tower Hamlets.
The 30-hours scheme offers working parents of eligible three- and four-year-olds up to 30 hours of funded childcare, doubling the existing offer of 15 hours. Each early implementer council has a chance to test out specific elements of the scheme, such as levels of deprivation or rural geography.
Caroline Dinenage, minister for the early years, said that the early implementer councils were “vital” to the success of the 30-hours scheme.
Dinenage said: “In my visits to the early implementer councils I’ve seen the innovative work that’s going into delivering our 30 hours offer early. Their efforts are vital to the success of the programme and these four new councils will build on the work we’ve seen so far.”
Neil Leitch, chief executive at the Alliance, welcomed the extended trial and the additional information it would bring ahead of the 30-hour scheme’s launch in September.
However, he warned that the trial would only be beneficial if identified concerns are properly addressed, saying: “Many providers across the country have warned that the funding rates proposed by government are unsustainable, while others have said that they do not have the capacity to roll out the 30-hour offer.”
Neil added: “If the 30-hour scheme is to have any chance of succeeding in the long term, we need to be able to have an honest conversation about the steps that government needs to take to make it work."