Childcare hubs to get Government funding

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Family charity 4Children has been awarded a two-year Government-funded contract to pilot 'community childcare hubs'.

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The new hubs aim to offer parents more flexibility with high-quality childcare by bringing together daycare providers and childminders.

Alongside consortium partners, including the Innovation Trust, OPM, and Contact A Family, 4Children will develop the Community Childcare Hubs so that parents can access nursery and childminder support from one co-ordinated source. The funding is worth £750,000 over two years.

There will be six named hubs spread throughout England in diverse areas, in rural Northumberland, Cambridge, Stroud, Lancashire, the North of England, London, and the outskirts of the capital.

The names of the settings are yet to be confirmed, but they will include an academy with a private provider; a free school with a voluntary provider; a private provider; a children's centre; and a nursery class and Reception class.

Sue Robb, head of early years at 4Children, said, 'It's an exciting piece of work, and we hope that it can be replicated elsewhere.'

The aim will be to put structures and processes in place to develop a financially sustainable childcare offer.

Ms Robb said, 'It's a real good cross-section (of provision). Some are rural, some are urban and they will work with early years and childcare providers in their locality.'

She added, 'What they are not is childminding agencies. It's quite different from a childminding agency - it's a network of support. They've got to attract local provision to join the hub - whether they are a school, children's centre, a private or voluntary provider, or childminder.'

Another aim of the hubs is to ensure that the need for childcare places in the area is being met by, for example, supporting settings to offer places for two-year-olds.

Finally, more directly, the hubs will support parents and families by working to provide 'a blended offer of childcare. The hub will look to see how to put a package of childcare together,' Ms Robb added.

The two-year programme is funded through the Department for Education's Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) grant programme. 4Children was also awarded a grant of £767,000 over two years to support children's centres.

Seventy-two organisations will share a total of around £50m over two years, from 2013-15, to implement national projects and services for children, young people and families.

Applicants were asked to submit bids for projects with an emphasis on early intervention and supporting the most disadvantaged.

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