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Early years minister Caroline Dinenage has met with nursery managers piloting the Government’s 30 hours free childcare plans in Swindon and is 'thrilled' to see doctors and nurses take up the offer.
In the first of a series of visits to pilot areas already offering parents 30 hours of free childcare per week, the childcare minister met with nursery managers on 28 November.
A year in advance of the offer being rolled out nationwide, the Co-operative Nursery on the site of Swindon’s Great Western Hospital, is among the settings delivering the government’s 30 hour offer to parents working at the hospital.
Tracy Rundle, manager of the Co-operative Nursery, said: “Most of the parents using our nursery work for the NHS Trust, so they are already seeing the benefit of the 30 hours free offer.
"Those that don’t are really looking forward to being eligible from September 2017 – many are already putting in their applications for places.”
Shift workers at Great Western Hospital are also benefiting from increased flexibility from Swindon's Play Den Nursery. From January, its manager Kate Adams will adapt her offer to provide free childcare on a Saturday, supporting parents who don’t follow a traditional working week.
Caroline Dinenage said: “I’m thrilled to have seen for myself the support available to hardworking nurses, doctors and hospital staff in Swindon. To know that your child is being cared for nearby by dedicated people really makes such a difference to parents’ peace of mind, especially those working in high-pressure jobs where shift patterns can vary from week to week."
Swindon Borough Council has also launched a partnership with Nationwide that will see 150 childcare places offered to staff in its Swindon-based head office, which the Minister said has resulted in 'a surge of applications from parents eager to take advantage'.
Swindon is one of eight pilot areas chosen to pilot the 30 hour offer. The minister said: “Swindon should be congratulated for its innovative links with local organisations such as Great Western Hospital and Nationwide which really are providing a boost for parents. We want this kind of creativity shared with other councils to help them launch the 30 hours offer next September – backed by a record £6 billion government investment.”
The Department of Education has said the government’s childcare offer could save working parents up to £2,500 per year with the cost of childcare, helping to remove the barriers to getting back to work or increasing their hours. From consultants to porters, many of these members of staff work varying shifts and are now using the extended times open to parents for the free offer.
Vivian Zinyemba, a clinical nurse specialist at Great Western Hospital, said: “Getting this free childcare makes it so much easier for me - it puts money back in your pocket and that little extra really helps.
"It also takes the pressure off at work because I know I won’t be charged extra for being late to the childminder now that I have these extra hours – there is much more flexibility.”