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Bridgwater needs 173 childcare places for toddlers
BRIDGWATER has a more urgent need for funded childcare places for toddlers than anywhere else in Somerset, it has been revealed.
Councils are already legally obliged to provide all three and four-year-olds with 15 hours of free childcare each week; now the Government is making councils do the same for two-year-olds in the poorest homes under its Fairness Premium.
The Government has given Somerset County Council £694,000 to provide an extra 1,000 nursery or childminder places for two-year-olds in the poorest 20% of homes in the county – less than a tenth of the £8million the council asked for.
In Bridgwater, there is a need for 173 places – more than Taunton (153) and South Somerset (135) – and the figure is set to rise further next year when the council has to find places for toddlers in the poorest 40% of homes.
County councillor Frances Nicholson, cabinet member for children and families, said: “There are parts of Somerset where the pressure is greater, and there are lots of families moving to Bridgwater because of the jobs being created; it’s something we have to keep a close eye on.
“We didn’t get as much money as we asked for from the Government but there are more childcare places available than there were two years ago when we made our bid because more and more people are just taking their 15 funded hours and no more.”
The county council will be investing £3million over the next three years to provide more toddler places and Cllr Nicholson said: “At the moment 93% of nursery education is provided through the private and voluntary sector, so the biggest area will be to encourage and support childcare providers to take on two-year-olds, as many don’t at the moment.”