HUNDREDS of Hartlepool toddlers are eligible for free childcare and the Government is urging parents to take action to ensure they do not miss out.
Mums and dads of children who turn two this month are being encouraged by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to check with their local council or nursery if they can get free childcare.
From this September, 15 hours of free childcare a week will being made available to around 130,000 two-year-olds who come from lower income families.
The first toddlers eligible under the scheme will have their second birthdays this month.
Local authority figures show that 7,265 children in the North-East will be eligible for the free childcare this September.
They include 343 in Hartlepool, 571 in Stockton, which covers Billingham, Wolviston and parts of WYnyard, and 1,304 in County Durham.
Nick Clegg, said: “High quality childcare can make a huge difference to children at the start of their lives.
“By getting things right from the off, they are much more likely to be ready when they start school.
“I want to make sure no child in the North-East loses out, which is why 7,265 children will be eligible from this September.
“If your son or daughter is turning two this April or later, they may be eligible for 15 hours free childcare a week.
“So make sure you check with your local nursery or local authority to find out if you’re entitled.”
Childcare places will first be aimed at children from families receiving an out-of-work benefit and those who are looked after by their local authority.
The Government says children from disadvantaged backgrounds are at greater risk of poor development, with differences showing up early in their life.
Local authorities are being encouraged to raise awareness of free childcare for two-year-olds so that families do not miss out.
The Government has announced funding to councils totalling £100m, to improve nursery and early education facilities.
The free childcare entitlement was rolled out in 10 pilot areas last year.