Hundreds of two-year-olds in Cambridgeshire are still missing out on free childcare – despite it being available for almost five years.
The latest figures from the Department for Education have revealed that fewer than seven in 10 eligible toddlers in our area are currently benefiting from the policy.
It means the parents of an estimated 532 two-year-olds in Cambridgeshire arent getting ANY government-funded childcare, despite being entitled to 15 hours a week.
Since the end of 2013, two-year-olds have been eligible for 15 hours of early education per week provided their parents receive certain benefits, such as Jobseekers Allowance, or if the child is looked after by a local authority.
Ellen Broomé, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, said: “High quality childcare helps to boost childrens outcomes and narrow the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.
“This is why Government have invested in free childcare for young children, but too many children still miss out on the free childcare they are entitled to.
“Some families will make a positive choice not to use free childcare as it is not right for their family. But the Family and Childcare Trusts own research found that only half of local areas have enough places for free childcare for two-year-olds, meaning some families miss out because there is simply not enough childcare available.
“We need urgent action to make sure that every family can find thechildcare they need to help their family to achieve its potential.”
Advice for parents
There are currently around 1,700 two-year-olds in Cambridgeshire estimated to qualify – although these figures do not include those with parents on universal credit.
While the number of parents taking advantage of the offer has been on the rise since the policy was fully implemented, in the last year the figure has gone down.
In 2015 just 60 per cent of eligible two-year-olds in our area received free early education, compared to 79 per cent in 2016, 79 per cent again in 2017 and 68 per cent this year.
Meanwhile, the percentage of two-year-olds receiving any free childcare still falls far short of the number of three and four-year-olds in government-funded education.
This year, 95 per cent of eligible three and four-year-olds have benefited from up to 15 hours of free childcare a week across Cambridgeshire.
With more than 15,300 three and four-year-olds eligible, this does still mean that the parents of an estimated 766 children in this age range in our area are not taking advantage of free childcare.
However, the fact that this remains so much higher than the uptake for two-year-olds suggests that many parents may still be unaware free childcare is available for younger toddlers, despite it being on offer for more than four years.
Parents in Peterborough are only slightly more likely to take advantage of the free childcare on offer for two-year-olds, with 69 per cent doing so.