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Over 200,000 children take up free childcare places

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Department of Education figures show that in the first term following the national roll-out of the new free childcare option, 90% of parents issued with a code secured a place for their child.

This means 202,873 children have taken up the 30 hours of free childcare since the option was introduced in September 2017.

The remaining 10% – around 22,000 households – had received a code, but have either not taken up a place, or not been able to find a place.

From September 2017, three and four-year-olds may be entitled to 30 hours free childcare, equivalent to 1,140 hours per year in total. This is an extra 15 hours over and above those previously available. The additional 15 hours is available to families where both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family), and each parent earns a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage or living wage, and less than £100,000 per year. This also includes self-employed parents.

The scheme has been controversial. Childcare regulator Ofsted said over 1,000 nurseries and childminders have gone out of business in the past two years, with many blaming the need to provide subsidised care. They have argued that the amount they get from the government is insufficient to match the cost of childcare. This has led to worries that the provision of free childcare may actually drive up costs due to lack of supply.

There have also been teething problems with the administration of the system with parents reporting technical problems and difficulties with registration.

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