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Monday, July 12, 1999 Published at 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK


Thousands to get childcare places

Children as young as three will benefit from the new money

Thousands of children will benefit from the first grants for after school hours care from a new lottery fund.

The BBC's Keith Phillips on the childcare funds
Around 115 before and after school clubs and holiday childcare schemes will be created or extended with a payout around £1.9m from the New Opportunities Fund.

The money will go towards the government's planned provision of 865,000 extra childcare places, at the cost of £220m, by the end of the year 2002.

Baroness Pitkeathley, chairman of the New Opportunities Fund which was set up last year for health, education and environment projects, said: "Over the next few years, the New Opportunities Fund will be making a real contribution to the quality of life of people across the UK.

"These projects will give families improved access to good quality, affordable childcare."

Childcare strategy

The out of school hours grants were launched in March as part of the government's National Childcare Strategy to give parents more support and help them back into work or training.

The Daycare Trust charity estimates that there is currently only one childcare place in the UK for every 7.5 children under the age of eight, although the situation has improved in the past two years.

A recent poll of parents found that only 8% of working parents with children aged 0 to 14 offered facilities such as creches.

The schemes which will benefit in the first raft of New Opportunities Fund handouts are those in areas where childcare need is greatest.

One is the Bath Play Area Project which will set up a new holiday playscheme for children with disabilities.

Spokeswoman Caroline Haworth said: "We are very pleased. We can employ playworkers and buy new equipment so that we can start this summer."

'Excellent start'

A spokeswoman for the Daycare Trust welcomed the new money, but said help had to be given to ensure new and extended schemes could continue to offer parents the choice they needed.

"It is an excellent start that the New Opportunities Fund is making to plug the childcare gap.

"It is clearly a very, very welcome first step towards that and it is brilliant timing at the beginning of the summer holidays when parents desperately need it."

The fund says some of the money, which will help school age children aged three and over, will be used for holiday schemes starting this summer.

The cash is only a one-off sum to start up or extend schemes.

Running costs will have to come from parents' fees and some of the cost will be met from the new Childcare Tax Credit, to be launched in October.

The Daycare Trust says it is trying to raise awareness of the credit so that parents know to claim it.

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