ASHBOURNE families on low income may be able to benefit from free childcare for their young children.
A scheme offering up to 15 hours of free childcare a week for two-year-olds is being rolled out to hard-pressed working families across the county.
Previously, it was only open to people on certain benefits.
Families with a household income of less than £16,190 a year and receiving Working Tax Credits can take advantage of the offer which could add up to thousands of pounds of free childcare a year.
Parents can choose to use their funding with a childminder, pre-school or nursery.
Councillor Kevin Gillott said: “One of our key priorities is to help Derbyshire families achieve their full potential.
“Families can get a lot out of childcare.
“Not only does the child benefit from playing with other children and learning through play, it can free up time for busy families.
“It can also help people get back into work and the extension to the scheme to families in work but on low pay will be a real benefit to those struggling to pay childcare bills.”
To qualify for the funding, which comes from the Government, families must have a household income of less than £16,190 a year and receive Working Tax Credit, or be on certain benefits such as income support or job seekers allowance, or have adopted or fostered a child.
Children of teenage parents and children receiving Disability Living Allowance also qualify.
The new funding for up to 15 hours a week during term time or fewer if used all year round is available in the term following a child’s second birthday.
So, if a child turns two before March 31 this year, they can take up a free place at the beginning of the Easter term in late April.
Children turning two between April 1 and August 31 can start in September and those turning two between September 1 and December 31 get funding from next January.
Councillor Gillott said: “This funding is good news for thousands of families in Derbyshire.
“Things are tough at the moment and I am glad we can help families who might be struggling.
“Childcare is expensive and if we can help keep more money in the pocket of hard-pressed families it will help them through difficult times.
“Three-year-olds already get free childcare, but by extending it to younger children we are offering families the opportunity to benefit even earlier.”
Further information and an eligibility checker is available online at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/freechildcare or by calling 01629 539316 during office hours.