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Thursday, 25 December 2014

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Free early learning for Cumbria tots

Cumbria parents and guardians are being reminded to apply for free early learning for two-year-old children from September.

Last month Cumbria County Council wrote to all families who may be eligible inviting them to submit applications.

About 20 per cent of two year-olds are eligible, but that figure is set to rise to 40 per cent from September 2014.

Early learning and education enhances a child’s development and social skills, helps prepare them for school and gives parents personal time and space.

Eligible children are entitled to 570 hours annually – equating to 15 hours a week or three hours a day during term time, although this can be stretched over more weeks if agreed with the family and childcare provider.

Some of the families contacted by Cumbria County Council last month have now submitted applications to take up places, but the council is calling on those who’ve not responded to apply and make sure they don’t miss out.

The Department for Education has forecast around 1,850 families will be eligible for places in September 2014.

To currently access free early learning for two-year-old places families must be in receipt of one of the following benefits:

- Income support

- Income based jobseekers allowance

- An income-related employment and support allowance

- The guaranteed element of state pension credit

- Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

- Child tax credit, provided the annual gross income is no more than £16,190 as assessed by HMRC, and the family is not in receipt of working tax credits

- The child is looked after by the local authority

From September 2014 the following additional criteria will qualify families for free early learning:

- If the family receive working tax credits and have annual gross earnings of no more than £16,190 per year as assessed by HMRC.

- If the child has a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan.

- If child is in receipt of disability living allowance

- If the child has left care through special guardianship or through an adoption or residence order.

Cumbria County Council councillor and cabinet member for children’s services Anne Burns said: “Beginning learning and education at the age of two benefits children’s social, physical and mental development and provides them with a headstart when they go to school.

“Looking after young children can be extremely demanding so as well as the child, parents can benefit by getting some time to themselves.

“I’d encourage families we contacted who haven’t yet applied to get their applications in and take advantage of their entitlement.”

To apply visit www.cumbria.gov.uk/childcare or call 0845 712 5737

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