THE Government is to extend its national childcare strategy to include babies and toddlers.
On Monday, education minister Margaret Hodge is expected to announce plans for nurseries in disadvantaged areas for the under-twos.
It follows the Labour party conference announcement last week of free nursery places of five two-and-half hour sessions a week for every three-year-old by September 2004.
Mrs Hodge said: "We hae very little for nought to two-year-olds. We want to set up an infrastructure of nursery provision in these deprived areas which will complement the Sure Start programme."
The Daycare Trust welcomed the move, saying three-quarters of parents are unable to find good childcare. Research evidence shows that nurseries are not harmful to infants and can bring many benefits, provided the provision is of high quality.