A NEW Government scheme set to give over 1,400 disadvantaged Sheffield children 15 hours a week of free early education has been branded a con by Labour.
The programme, set to come into force from September next year, will see the city receive over £3.8 million to pay for places at schools, nurseries and with childminders.
But Labour says the funding is not new money but simply cash that is being taken from existing budgets that pay for children’s centres.
Shadow children’s minister Sharon Hodgson said: “Parents won’t be fooled by this. In fact the overall budget for children’s centres is falling by over 40 per cent – it’s no wonder 280 have closed since 2010.
“This con won’t do enough to help families who are being hammered by this Government, with a triple whammy of higher childcare costs, less support through tax credits and a shortage of childcare places.”
It will be up to Sheffield city council to make sure families take up the places – if they don’t, less money will be allocated in future, under new ‘use it or lose it’ rules.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said numbers of children joining the scheme would double in 2014.
“These free places will make a huge difference to hard-pressed families,” he said.
Education providers will be given £5.09 per hour – well above the average market rate.
Ministers say the funding is generous to allow nurseries to hire and retain the highest quality staff.