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Expanded Pre-school childcare, SFRS Statement of Assurance

Written by on 8 November 2023

Expanded childcare for pre-school years will help thousands of children and their parents, as increases in Government-funded hours for increasingly younger children, begin in April next year.

97 per cent, almost all of Staffordshire’s pre-school providers are rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ so this gives toddlers play and learning opportunities that will help them make the most of school.

The expansion of Government-funded childcare means that from April, eligible working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare a week.  Then, from September next year, the 15 hours of free childcare will be extended down to the age of nine months for eligible working parents.

And finally, from September 2025, eligible working parents of children aged nine months and upwards will be entitled to 30 hours’ free childcare per week right up to their child starting school. Staffordshire County Council is planning how it can use the expansion to help families and childcare providers.

One challenge for the authority is the increasing number of children being identified as having delayed development, or Special Educational Needs, at pre-school age, with figures showing a 70 per cent increase in referrals from 600 in 2019 to 1,020 in 2023.

Staffordshire County Council has already piloted two trials programmes for the Department for Education focusing on speech and development in young children, with excellent results.

Mark Sutton added: “One project, Hungry Little Minds, has focused on encouraging parents to chat, play and read with their babies from the outset, while the other, the Early Communication Screening, helps professionals identify any speech or communication issues at the earliest opportunity and find the appropriate help.

“Both have been a great success in Staffordshire and we will use those schemes and the benefits that come from attending a good pre-school, to help get our young children ready to make the most of school and get the best start in life.”


Staffordshire Fire and Rescue service have published their latest performance report which saw firefighters attend more than 9,700 incidents in the last year, with 832 of those incidents being road traffic collisions.

The report, titled the Statement of Assurance, for the period April 2022 to March 2023, is a requirement of the Fire and Rescue National Framework for England, and highlights prevention, protection, and response activity carried out across the county and how the service has supported local communities and their priorities.

In this period, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue completed more than 13,000 Safe and Well visits, which included fitting smoke and heat detectors as well as offering individuals advice on fire safety. These were carried out in the homes of the most vulnerable, including the elderly and less mobile who may find it harder to escape should a fire start in their homes.

They also supported 171 young people as part of The Prince’s Trust programme and attended more than 260 incidents involving falls following the launch of their falls response team supporting  local partners in the NHS, Integrated Care Board and Midlands Partnership Foundation Trust.

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services’ report rates Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service as ‘Good’ at being effective in understanding and preventing fires, responding to major incidents, and identifying at-risk individuals in communities. The service was also rated as ‘Good’ in terms of affordability and continually seeking ways to enhance effectiveness and efficiency through the use of technology.

Chief Fire Officer for Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Rob Barber, said: “Last summer saw significant demands on resources, particularly during a hot dry period that resulted in numerous operational incidents. The service’s prevention, protection and response teams handled these incidents professionally, implementing lessons learned from previous debriefs and utilising new equipment and tactics.

“Despite a year of significant challenges, the Service has once again demonstrated its resilience and dedication and I would like to thank everyone at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service for their continued hard work and commitment in protecting our communities across the county and city.”