Key policy points and spokespeople’s comments taken from BBC website
The parties’ proposals
- The Conservatives will be announcing details of their childcare plans before the election. A Conservative spokesman said the party was “proud” of measures taken in government to increase provision and pointed to the introduction of tax-free childcare scheduled for after the election. He said the Tories would focus on offering a “choice” for parents about whether to return to work or stay at home. Check out here our views on why tax breaks for childcare are not such a good idea. And there is some contradiction in the spokesperson’s comments and Tory policy- it is clear from welfare reform that only some parents are encouraged to have the choice on going back to work.
- The Liberal Democrats would extend the existing entitlement of 15 hours a week free childcare to all two-year-olds. It is also pledging the same amount of childcare for all children of working parents aged between nine months and two years. Nick Clegg’s party also has a “long-term ambition” to increase free provision to 20 hours a week for all two, three and four-year-olds and for children aged between nine months and two years of working parents. The party says its total package would cost £2.8bn.
This would be a solid investment focused on parents with younger children and those in work – Investing in supply side rather than tax breaks develops services. This would make a material difference to all parents.
- Labour says it would extend the current free childcare for working parents with three and four year olds
from 15 to 25 hours per week. The party says this would be worth £1,500 per child. It also says it would double the number of childcare places at Sure Start centres and guarantee childcare from 08:00 to 18:00 for parents of primary school children. The key benefit of the Labour approach is its focus on Sure Start Centres – essential from Belina’s perspective if we are to support parents as well as children. Its focus is on working parents and the provision of childcare from 8am to 6pm also shows an understanding of the need for wraparound care – this would make the most difference to the lone parents who make up 11% of all those on JSA.
- In Scotland, the SNP has promised a guaranteed free 30 hours of childcare a week for three and four-year-olds, up from 16 hours. Positive approach for children and parents – full time nursery education proven to benefit children and full time services mean parents can work longer.
- Plaid Cymru is calling for full time education for all children from the age of three in Wales, which would cost £300m. – Again This offers parents the opportunity to work earlier and high quality early education is proven to support children’s long term prospects.
- The Green Party says it would extend the hours of nursery entitlement for three and four-year-olds, as well as giving parents “as much flexibility as possible in terms of times and locations” and encouraging “occasional ad hoc care”. As with the SNP and Plaid – this is a positive offer – it would be good to know what they mean by occasional as hoc care – of course it is much needed but what are they suggesting is the solution?
- UKIP has yet to announce detailed childcare policies ahead of the general election. OK – we will have to wait for their ideas
We will be talking about these and other issues at Work in Progress in Sheffield on the 19 March – hope to see you there.