Labour is making the running on childcare – Join me selling it on the doorstep

Lucy Powell

Labour’s bold announcements on childcare have put a spring in the step of our activists and Parliamentary candidates. A guaranteed wraparound childcare place for primary school children and an extension of the free nursery offer for three and four years olds from 15 to 25 hours are a strong offer for Labour campaigners across the country.

As Labour’s new Shadow Minister for Childcare and Children I’m keen to get out and about and sell this policy to families. My first and most urgent task is to get out there and show that Labour continues to be on the side of working families. These announcements are fantastic ammunition and show that Labour is serious in tackling the cost of living crisis facing parents looking for affordable quality childcare.

Labour’s childcare announcements will make a real difference for parents and children. A guaranteed wrap around primary childcare place will help parents manage their working days and give children fun activities to do after school which will build their experiences and boost their confidence. The guarantee will mean that parents can worry less about finding care that fits in with the school day because a guaranteed place will be available locally.

Raising the free nursery offer from 15 to 25 hours will be a real boost for women and the economy as well as helping narrow the gap between the most vulnerable children and their peers. This strong new deal for working mums and dads will help parents to make ends meet. It will mean that for the first time parents can return to work part time without having to worry about childcare costs, a big boost for their family budgets and a major gain for the exchequer.

There is work to be done on the design and implementation of these policies and over the coming months I’ll be engaging with parents and the sector so that we can develop these policy ideas. In particular how we can make this provision a hallmark of quality that parents desire.

In contrast the Tories have nothing to say on tackling a childcare crisis of their own making. David Cameron didn’t talk about childcare at all in his conference speech. George Osborne just name checked his tax free childcare policy – no wonder he didn’t go into any more detail given the plans offer parents no help now and help the richest the most when they do launch in 2015. Michael Gove made no mention of this vital issue in his brief and Iain Duncan Smith didn’t even say how childcare costs would be tackled in his universal credit project to make work pay.

The Tories have no serious answer for parents finding it difficult to make ends meet due to inflation busting childcare price rises on their watch. With places plummeting due to spending cuts and £1500 slashed from some family budgets to help pay for childcare, this Government has created a childcare cost of living crisis that they won’t answer for.

I’ll continue to make the economic case for childcare investment and champion the strengths of working parents. The vast majority of women want to return to work but are trapped by high childcare costs and marginal returns on them going back to work. This investment in the early years will boost the economy and give women – and it is mainly women – the choice to go back to work at least part time without having to worry about childcare bills. Policy Exchange polling shows that paying for childcare is as important an issue as finding a job for those women out of work and half of those women who said they would like to be working more hours said they wouldn’t be able to pay for the additional childcare.

Taken together these new policies are a sign of our intent on childcare. As a working mum myself and a champion of these issues I know that these measures are a good step towards meeting the childcare challenge. However, there remains more to be done and I’ll be working with Labour’s Childcare Commission to develop further ideas in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime join me on the doorstep to sell Labour’s new childcare offer to the electorate.

Lucy Powell MP is Labour’s Shadow Minister for Childcare and Children 

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