The North East’s top-rated nursery group is issuing advice to parents ahead of the roll out of supported hours for working families.

On April 1, the Government’s new childcare scheme saw the introduction of 15 hours of funded support for two-year-olds, for 38 weeks of the year.

And in September, the scheme will be extended to include babies from nine months old, from the term after they turn nine months..

However, the timescales which dictate when parents and carers are eligible to access the funded hours are critical and depend on when the child turns nine months.

Clever Clogs Nursery Group, which includes the Clever Clogs nurseries at Belmont and Bowburn in County Durham and Little Ladybirds Day Nursery in Stockton, has been supporting families who have been able to access the first stage of supported hours and is issuing guidance ahead of the roll out in September.

Sharon Lewis is Group Director. She said: “We have seen from the introduction of 15 hours of funded support for working families with two-year-olds that there has been some confusion as to exactly when children are eligible.

“And although we have been meticulous in our communication to our parents, we really wanted to take this opportunity to reinforce some of the key details parents and carers need to know ahead of the scheme being rolled out in September.

“Your child will be eligible to claim the hours from the beginning of the term after their eligible birthday. Terms currently start after January 1st, April 1st, or September 1st. For example, if you child’s eligibility age changes on September 1st, they will be eligible after January 1st, not from the first of September.

“It is vital that you get your application in at the right time; if you miss the deadline for the next available term after your child’s birthday, you will need to wait until the term after it before you can access the funded support.”

The 15 hours of support are for 38 weeks but can be spread across the whole year, as normal school term times are 39 weeks long.

Demand has been high for the supported hours across Clever Clogs Nursery Group’s three nurseries and Sharon is urging families not to hang around if they want to access it.

She added: “The biggest challenge nurseries are facing is how to meet demand from families for the 15 hours of support. Naturally, when so many parents and carers are struggling with the cost of living, this childcare support is invaluable, and we fully appreciate that.

“However, we must stress it’s first come, first served so please speak to us, or your child’s nursery, as soon as possible to find out if and exactly when you will be able to tap into these funded hours.”

Clever Clogs Nursery Group, which is owned by entrepreneur Andrea Townsley, was recently rated on the childcare industry’s equivalent of Trip Advisor, Day Nurseries (daynurseries.co.uk).

It was ranked fourth best in the country and was one of only 16 groups across the UK to receive a perfect 10 out of 10 score (of 329 scored). It’s three nurseries all enjoyed individual success in the Top 20 North East Small Nurseries category, with Little Ladybirds Day Nursery in Stockton coming top and Clever Clogs in Bowburn and Belmont ranked sixth and ninth respectively.

Over 100 people are employed across the group’s three sites.