THOUSANDS of families across the district will benefit from a Government scheme to provide more free care to two-year-olds, which will be expanded this week.

For several months, schools and community centres have been preparing to provide increased numbers of places for children aged two, which have been made possible through a national Government grant scheme costing a total of £226 million.

For many schools and centres it will be the first time they have provided care for that age group, and many have built specialist facilities to deal with the changes.

Places will be available for children from families on benefits or income support, and the Department for Education has estimated that 4,899 children are eligible for the scheme in Bradford. The Council aims to have enough places for all eligible children by next September.

The policy means that many more of the district's poorest families will have access to centres offering free child care, and some of the provision will be in Bradford's poorest areas.

In Bradford the scheme will provide free childcare for almost 4,237 children from this month. In March there was only provision for 3,587 children. The Council expects to have a total of 4,477 places available by January with the remainder created by next September.

A Council spokesman said: "We plan that by September 2015 there will be sufficient places to accommodate demand for places, bearing in mind that not all eligible families will want to take up a place."

Cllr Debbie Davies, Conservative spokesman for Children's Services on the Council, urged families to make the most of her party's scheme, adding: "I hope that parents take up this tremendous opportunity for their children to socialise, learn new skills and have fun away from home. Under the new rules around 40 per cent of children will now be eligible for 15 hours a week childcare either with a childminder or in a nursery setting free of charge. If parents are unsure whether they are eligible or not they should contact their local children's centre to find out."

The schools and community centres that have the new two year old provision are: Eastwood Primary School in Keighley (starting in November), Worth Valley Primary School in Keighley (opened in June), Riddlesden St Mary's Primary (delivered by Bramble Hedge Pre-school), Killinghall Primary School, Khidmat Centre in West Bowling, Fagley Primary School, Woodroyd Nursery, High Crags Primary School (expanding to 24 place from 12), Thornton Play Group (at St James community centre), Farnham and Horton Grange Primary school, Princeville Primary school, Children's Places St James- (school building at St James Primary school but run by a third party provider), Abbey Green Children Centre, Midland Road Children Centre and Carwood community centre in Holme Wood.