Lib Dem conference: Clegg pledges £100m for childcare

Nick Clegg Nick Clegg said the coalition would give help to England's most hard-pressed families

The government is to give councils in England £100m to help meet its promise of providing free nursery places for 100,000 two-year-olds.

The coalition has pledged to create the care for the poorest two-fifths of households by 2014.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the money, found from underspending in government, would mean a "revolution in early education".

But councils in England will not be told how to spend the money.

The government is committed to providing up to 15 hours of free childcare for all two-year-olds from the poorest two-fifths of households by September 2014.

However in many areas, particularly those deemed socially disadvantaged, there is a shortage of childcare facilities.

'Potential'

The £100m is intended to go into capital spending, such as converting part of an existing building into extra nursery space.

Start Quote

What we are looking at doing is the equivalent of creating an extra 200 primary schools”

End Quote Nick Clegg Lib Dem leader

A Lib Dem spokesman said councils would not be told how to spend the money, but added that they had a legal obligation to ensure provision of places in their area.

He added: "What we are looking at doing is the equivalent of creating an extra 200 primary schools."

Mr Clegg, speaking at the Lib Dem annual conference in Brighton, said: "So much of a child's future is determined before they hang up their coats on their first day at school.

"It is vital that we do all we can to make sure a child's potential isn't determined by the circumstances of their birth.

"That is why we will give thousands of two-year olds access to free early years education over the coming years.

"Good quality early education gives children a head start before they even start school and helps the most hard-pressed families who are struggling with the cost of child care.

"The money we are announcing today will help nurseries and child minders get ready to deliver this revolution in early education."

Labour says the plans are not comprehensive enough and has urged the coalition to do more.

The Lib Dem conference continues until Wednesday.

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