Gwynedd Council is calling on parents to check if they qualify for free childcare which could give their child an educational boost as well as saving the family hundreds of pounds a year.

The council launched the progressive scheme in August last year and more than 60 two-year-olds in some of the most deprived areas of the county have benefited from a total of more than 2,300 hours of free childcare. The scheme is currently available to families living within certain postcode areas in Bangor (Hendre, Hirael, Garth 2, Dewi), Barmouth, Porthmadog (Tremadog and Porthmadog East), Bala, Blaenau Ffestiniog (Teigl) and Caernarfon (Seiont 2).

Families can visit to see if they qualify and fill in an application form. Eligible families will be offered 12.5 hours of care over five days a week, which is either five morning sessions or five afternoon sessions, equivalent to £2,925 of free care over a year.

Cllr Elin Walker Jones said: “This is a forward-thinking scheme and its main objective is to ensure that as many children as possible have access to high quality childcare provision.

“I’m delighted that the council is able to offer families this fantastic opportunity. Not only does it help lay solid foundations for a child’s future school life, but it also tackles deprivation, increases the Welsh-medium childcare provision and contributes towards filling the gaps in the provision available.

“It was a privilege to see the scheme officially launched during the Llŷn ac Eifionydd National Eisteddfod over the summer and I am extremely grateful for the work the officers put in beforehand as they held discussions with childcare providers and worked out the fine details of the scheme.

“I would encourage families who live in these areas, who haven’t yet applied, to take a look at the website to see if they qualify. Having access to good childcare locally can make a world of difference to a child’s development and this support can give parents a helping hand as they start thinking about returning to training or work.”

There are 20 childcare providers enrolled on the scheme so far, including Cylch Meithrin Y Tonnau in Abermaw. Siân Evans, the group leader, said: “The two-year-old childcare scheme has been a huge success for us, with attendance for our afternoon session rising to 10 children.

“The children have the freedom to explore, make friends and to have their first taste of school, and the transition is easier from the Cylch Meithrin as they are used to being away from their parents and have already got to know the staff.

“Also, in an area with a high percentage of non-Welsh speakers, the scheme gives children the best start and an immersion in Welsh.

“The parents are very happy with the new scheme as it gives them the opportunity to prepare and plan to go back to work. And with the free sessions, it frees up money for them to pay for more sessions which then benefits the children and the Cylch.”

For more information about the scheme, and to apply, parents and guardians should visit Cyngor Gwynedd’s website or contact the service on 01248 352436 / [email protected].