A GOVERNMENT minister visited North Yorkshire to discuss the benefits of increased access to free childcare.

Children’s Minister Robert Goodwill visited Orchard Trees Nursery in Thorganby yesterday, where parents have been offered 30 hours of free childcare in a pilot scheme shared by just 12 areas around the country.

Mr Goodwill revealed an independent assessment which showed almost 15,000 people had signed up to the government’s Early Implementer programme around the country - with numbers tripling since April.

Lindsay Oates, owner and manager of the nursery, said parents had been very happy with the introduction of increased care, and she was pleased to know the government was taking notice of sites outside of London.

She said: “It was really good to see they are actually listening to providers and seeing how it has been used.

“I know parents are very thankful for it and that’s the main thing. It now means parents can go back to work. the majority of the children we have here already paid for extra hours, so those hours now are funded rather than paid for. I think the parents have seen a big difference in their invoice, a reduction they are receiving so obviously that’s going to realise a lot of financial pressure for them.”

Mr Goodwill said: “I have already heard time and time again of how 30 hours is improving the lives of families in these areas, many of whom had previously found the cost or availability of childcare a real worry.

“I’m delighted with the success of our Early Implementer programme, which is now not only anecdotal but confirmed in this independent evaluation. From cutting household costs to increasing the quality time working parents can spend with their children, access to 30 hours is giving families a real boost.”