£237,000 boost for childcare

Cath Hill
Cath Hill

CHILDCARE for two-year-olds living in disadvantaged areas of Hartlepool is to receive a £237,000 injection – to the delight of council officials.

Hartlepool Borough Council has been awarded the Government cash to refurbish childcare premises to allow for the care of two-year-olds.

Independent councillor Cath Hill, portfolio holder for children’s and community services, welcomed the funding boost and said it will benefit some of the town’s most deprived children.

The money has been allocated for this financial year and is likely to be the only capital funding for childcare for two-year-olds.

The money must be spent by August 2014. Officers say it will be allocated among providers using the council’s childcare sufficiency assessment, which is currently being updated.

A number of places already provide childcare for two-year-olds, including all daycare settings and some schools and childminders, but the numbers of places provided is not currently enough to place all disadvantaged youngsters.

Sally Robinson, the council’s assistant director, prevention, safeguarding and specialist services, said: “The Government has acknowledged that local authorities need to support settings to develop further provision for two-year-olds and have allocated capital funding to support refurbishment of premises.

“A capital grant of £237,071 has been allocated to Hartlepool which needs to be spent by August 2014.

“This grant is expected to be used to support providers with their environments.”

Officers say the funding can be used by schools, childminders and private day nurseries and Coun Hill agreed to ring-fence the money at a recent meeting.

Hartlepool has been a pathfinder for two-year-old childcare for the past three years, giving places to the most disadvantaged children, and the Government has now decided to spread it across the country.

New legislation means councils have to ensure there are places for all disadvantaged two-year-olds, starting with the most 20 per cent disadvantaged this September and 40 per cent most disadvantaged the year after.

Officers say the local authority has been planning for the past 18 months and supporting providers who have not previously offered child care for that age group, including schools.

Coun Hill said: “It benefits our most disadvantaged children and it will help those primary schools that these children will go to.

“They would not have asked us to be a pathfinder if they didn’t think we were doing a good job.

“I believe that any money this department gets is spent wisely.”