A FREE childcare initiative has been extended.
Thousands of parents of two-year-olds are getting the chance to retrain or get back to work thanks to a new childcare scheme.
Staffordshire County Council launched the 'Think 2' free childcare scheme last September to help parents interested in returning to work or retraining.
Following a successful launch, the scheme, which provides 15 hours free childcare per week during term time, has now been extended to parents who receive Working Tax Credits and whose household income is below £16,190.
Anyone meeting the benefits criteria for free school meal eligibility also qualify.
Councillor Mike Lawrence, cabinet member for Children, Community and Localism on Staffordshire County Council said: "Lots of parents tell us that they would like to go back to work, but find it difficult because of a lack of suitable and affordable childcare.
"This is why we introduced the Think2 project and then extended the scheme to include even more parents.
"We have been incredibly pleased with the success of the scheme so far and now have over 1,000 parents benefiting from the free childcare and freeing up time to retrain or find a job.
"I would encourage people to check if they are eligible; it could be just what you're looking for. You can find out more and apply online at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/think2, and remember if you are on benefits, these are not affected."
The free 15 hours childcare is provided by local nurseries, childminders or pre-schools including in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
People will be able to access the childcare either during school term time over 38 weeks, or spread over the year if the childcare provider has this flexibility.
Mike added: "The Think2 scheme not only benefits parents, but we know that very young children who enjoy a good quality early education often get a better start in life.
"Their early experiences of learning through play form a great foundation both for school life and the years to come."
The free places are now available for eligible children on the term following their second birthday.
To apply, obtain information or to check full criteria and eligibility visit www.staffordshire.gov.uk/think2. People can also call 0300 111 8007.
Parents who are eligible will receive a list of childcare providers in their area along with their confirmation letter.