Nick Clegg meets parents at Kent nursery

Nick Clegg at Gravesend nursery
Image caption Nick Clegg met staff, parents and children at a nursery in Gravesend

Nick Clegg visited Kent to promote the government's free childcare offer for two-year-olds earlier.

The deputy prime minister met staff, parents and children at a nursery in Gravesend.

The scheme will provide 20% of disadvantaged two-year-olds with 15 hours of free early education a week.

The visit came as it was claimed that children were being forced out of a council-run nursery in Chatham to make room for families on low incomes.

The idea is that poorer parents can have more choice, and more opportunity to work.

Working parents previously got no help from the government unless they were on certain benefits.

'Give up work'

During his visit, Mr Clegg said: "What we're doing is working with nurseries, working with Sure Start centres to get in touch with those families who are eligible, who might not be aware that they are eligible."

But some working parents claimed they may have to give up their jobs after a nursery in Chatham announced it would no longer operate all year round.

The All Saints Sure Start Children's Centre will now mirror school term times, and parents say they will need to find alternative childcare during the school holidays.

Working mother Louise Taylor said she would have to find an alternative place for her two-year-old son Henry, who attends the nursery.

She claimed parents were not consulted.

"None of the parents I've spoken to are very happy about it at all," she said.

"I've spoken to some parents who are going to have to give up their jobs.

"You kind of think - well it's not an option for me - but maybe we should give up work so he can stay at the same nursery."

Some parents also said they would have to remove their older children to make way for the two-year-olds.

Medway Council said it had to provide 700 free nursery places for two-year-olds from the poorest families.

Mike O'Brien, Medway's councillor in charge of children's services, said: "At that centre [All Saints] we're going to be doubling the amount of spaces for children from Chatham Central, for disadvantaged children.

"We've been in consultation with a lot of parents down there, a lot of children are already leaving because they're going to be joining their new schools in September."

He said there were alternative nursery facilities nearby.

Mr Clegg said: "Each nursery can take these entitlements and use them flexibly.

"It is for local authorities and nurseries to decide how they spread that time.

"It's not really for government to tell nurseries exactly how they administer that entitlement.

"But it does actually mean there hundreds of millions of extra pounds being provided by the government to help families balance work and family in a way that wasn't available before."

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