Labour announces radical expansion of free childcare for all
In his leader’s speech at Labour Party Conference in Liverpool tomorrow (Wednesday), Jeremy Corbyn will announce a “radical expansion and transformation of free universal childcare”, benefiting more than a million children and their families.
He will say that the current “patchy support for childcare is holding back too many parents and families. Universal free high quality childcare will benefit parents, families and children across our country. It is a vital and long overdue change that will transform people’s lives and meet the needs of a 21st century Britain for all.”
Under Labour’s plans, 30 hours of high quality, genuinely free childcare will be available to all 2, 3 and 4 year olds, with no means testing.
In a major new announcement, Corbyn will set out Labour’s plans to provide additional subsided hours of childcare on top of the free 30 hour allowance.
These additional hours will be free for those on the lowest incomes and, for those on the highest incomes, they will be offered for no more than £4 per hour.
Corbyn will also set out Labour’s plans to improve children’s life chances by dramatically raising standards of childcare.
Labour will achieve this by introducing a two-term plan to shift to a graduate-led workforce. This will improve the pay and skill levels of childcare staff, drive up standards to improve our children’s life chances and close the attainment gap, which is locking in inequality while children are still infants.
Corbyn is expected to say “opportunity matters most in the earliest years of life. It is a crucial time to open up children’s life chances. Driving up standards of childcare will make that vital difference for millions of our children.”
Corbyn will also outline Labour’s plans to simplify the childcare system for parents, by launching a national childcare access portal online. This improved, simplified system will replace the current fragmented and often confusing hotchpotch of vouchers and credits.
The Government is failing to deliver on even its limited childcare pledge, which Corbyn will describe as “free in name only”. Currently, only 40 per cent of two-year-olds qualify for childcare and many working parents with three and four-year-old children are not getting the childcare they were promised by the Conservatives at the last election because of the complexity of the rules.
Meanwhile, Tory cuts have also led to the loss of over 1,240 Sure Start centres.
Conservative underfunding of its far more limited childcare commitment is hurting children, families, workers and childcare providers. One in ten providers are now operating at a loss following the introduction of the government’s “free in name only” childcare policy and one quarter are no longer profitable. These growing financial pressures are stretching providers to breaking point, reducing standards and putting additional strain on already relatively low paid staff. According to a government survey, half of families are forced to pay for extras.