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Free childcare to double to 30 hours per week by 2016

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The amount of free childcare working parents will receive is to double to 30 hours per week by September 2016, the prime minister is expected to announce.

David Cameron will say that the number of hours of free childcare that working parents of three- and four-year-olds receive will double from 15 hours a week to 30 hours a week. The scheme will be rolled out a year earlier than previously planned in the party's manifesto.

The Conservative government’s Childcare Bill is to be introduced in the House of Commons tomorrow, with the pilot programme in place by 2016.

Cameron said the government is “pressing ahead with these reforms so that not a moment is lost in getting on with the task, going further than ever before to help with childcare costs”.

According to the government, the free places will be available for up to 600,000 families and worth £5,000 a year, twice as much as they are currently worth.

CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall welcomed the news and praised the government for “shining the spotlight on childcare”.

“Many parents want to come back to work or put in more hours after having a child, but can’t because of soaring childcare costs,” she said.

“Increasing free childcare provision is an important step to enabling parents to pursue their careers, and to allowing businesses to retain skilled and talented employees.

“In time we would like to see the gap closed between the end of maternity leave and the start of free provision.”

However, the Pre-school Learning Alliance has said free childcare schemes are already underfunded by on average 20%, and that extending the programme is unrealistic without a “substantial increase in sector funding”.

The organisation’s chief executive Neil Leitch told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "I think this is crunch time, I think there will be a meltdown. You will see more and more providers withdrawing from the system and that will undermine and just railroad the entire policy."