A LOCAL MP and Labour’s Shadow Early Years Minister has criticised the Government’s 30 hours free childcare policy which was introduced this month.

Tracy Brabin, who represents Batley and Spen, said that the scheme, which was an election pledge to working parents by David Cameron in 2015, is not working properly.

Mrs Brabin said it has been plagued by technical difficulties and there is evidence that the places available to parents are under-funded with some nurseries having to put restrictions on places due to funding levels.

In answer to questions from Mrs Brabin, the Government revealed this week that there had been 216,000 eligibility codes issued nationally to parents through their website.

This is around a third of the 630,000 places originally promised and much less than the 390,000 children the Government had estimated were eligible.

She said they also admitted that nearly a third of those have not actually been found a funded place on the scheme, while around 1,500 have been stuck due to unresolved technical difficulties with the website.

They were unable to say how much compensation was likely to be paid out as a consequence.

The MP said: “The Government’s so-called free childcare offer has fallen far short of the pledges they made when they asked for parents’ votes at election time.

“They haven’t even provided a quarter of the places they claimed. They have left hundreds of thousands of working parents either ineligible or unable to access the free childcare they were promised.

“The next Labour Government will give every two to four-year-old 30 hours of free childcare a week, with the resources to actually deliver it.”

A major nursery chain, Busy Bees, who the Government had said would provide the 30 hours to working parents, has also announced it will not be able to do so in many areas of the country as the funding does not cover their costs.

They are having to restrict times and days parents can take the 30 hours or charge for extras such as meals.

Minister for Children and Families Robert Goodwill said: “We are investing a record £6 billion every year by 2020 in childcare – more than ever before – and doubling the free childcare available to working parents to 30 hours a week, saving them up to £5,000 a year per child.

“This funding includes an additional £1 billion per year by 2019-20 to pay for the free offers and to raise the national hourly rate to local authorities for three and four-year-olds to £4.94 per hour.

“Providers can choose whether to offer 30 hours and what pattern of days and hours they offer parents. It is also entirely reasonable for providers to charge parents for additional extras, such as meals, nappies and trips, but this cannot be a condition of the child’s place.”