JUGGLING work and caring for children can be a stressful and often confusing time but from this month parents in Huntingdonshire can get face-to-face advice at a new drop-in service.

The Childcare Information Service opened its shop-front in Bridge, St Ives last week to a champagne reception after 14 years of being exclusively on the phone and online.

The team of 10 advisers provide information on Ofsted-approved childcare and help guide parents interested in applying for tax credits.

Though the service already takes nearly 10,000 phone enquiries a year, hopes are the shop will mean more people can be helped.

Development manager Kate Warboys said: "It has always been something we have wanted to do. We are not stopping doing anything we already do, we have just added this.

"It is just another channel where parents or grandparents can physically come in and have a face-to-face conversation. It is a bit like the fact you can still go to your bank, or you can go online, or you can call.

"It is just making sure that we are offering as many different available channels as we possibly can."

Under the Childcare Act 2006, all local authorities must provide information to parents about childcare.

Cambridgeshire launched its Childcare Information Service, formally delivered by Opportunity Links, in 1997 and was one of the first to go online.

Since March St Ives-based charity Young Lives has been contracted by Cambridgeshire County Council to provide the service.

Kate added: "The thought of handing over their children to someone else to look after is scary. People want reassurance about the registration process. We can tell them what Ofsted registration means, and we can talk through with them about paying for childcare and the options.

"A lot of parents do not know that if you have got a three- or four-year-old you are entitled to 15 hours of free early years education - that is Government-supported.

"We are here to help parents to understand what provision there is and the importance of looking out for registration - so if they visit a childcare operator, they know to ask for Ofsted certificates."

County councillor David Brown, cabinet member for children and young people services, attended the opening and said: "I believe this facility is a good example of how working together with organisations like Young Lives, the county council can add value and make a real difference to the people of Cambridgeshire, and I wish the venture every success."