Boost free childcare to build a brighter future

The Liberal Democrats will today (09/11/19) announce bold plans to introduce free childcare from 9 months, transforming the lives of parents and children across the UK.

Today’s high cost of childcare means that too many parents are unable to return to work without risking real financial hardship. With the average cost of 25 hours nursery care for a child under two running to more than £6500 per year, many parents are effectively excluded from work due to the burden of childcare costs.

A Liberal Democrat government will build a fairer economy by providing free, high-quality childcare for every child aged two to four, for 35 hours a week, 48 weeks a year. The offer is extended to children aged between 9 and 24 months where their parents are in work.

The Liberal Democrats will make sure that childcare providers are adequately funded, increasing the rates paid by government to match the actual cost of nursery provision. This will be funded by fair tax changes, ensuring that big businesses pay their share, and aligning the tax treatment of income from wealth with income from work.

Liberal Democrats recognise that laws need to change so that parents have the chance to work with greater flexibility. As part of these proposals, employers will be required to advertise jobs flexibly, unless there are clear business reasons why they cannot.

Liberal Democrat plans to transform the provision of early years support are at the heart of the Party’s plans to build a brighter future for the next generation.

Speaking ahead of the policy’s launch tomorrow afternoon at an event in Battersea, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson said:

For so many people, the cost of childcare simply makes returning to work impossible. This hurts our economy and deprives our workforce of a vital pool of talent.

The choice for parents now is simply not good enough. That is why Liberal Democrats are proposing a transformational change to our economy, by providing working parents with free childcare from when their child is 9 months old.

This will close the gap between the end of paid parental leave and the start of free childcare provision. It will finally give parents more choice about when they return to work and unlock their untapped potential for our economy.

This is part of our bold plan to build a brighter future and fundamentally reshape our economy.

The party’s shadow Education Secretary Layla Moran said:

Liberal Democrats are the only party which is seriously supporting families as they juggle the demands of modern life, working and parenting, by giving them more choice over how they organise their lives and improve social mobility with early years education.

Childcare costs can be incredibly expensive, and in many cases, people have found that it makes little financial sense to continue working, when so much of their income is going into nursery costs.

We want to build a brighter future for this country, and that starts with our children, and those in the early stages of parenting, who need far more support than they have been given.

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  • We have to take BBC & ITV to court for injunctions. Even if we lose the publicity will be well worth it and overshadow the broadcasts, but on a balance of probabilities court will probably say Swinson should be given the opportunity particularly as Sky have set a precedent. . Both broadcasters will probably try some sort of compromise/settlement.
    We all know the BBC is very biased against us, playing up to the other 2 because of fear of losing their licence.

  • And how about those parents that prefer to raise their own children rather than sticking a 9month old into childcare with a stranger?

    I get the need to support those who want to return to work, but can we balance this with supporting those parents who want to do both? Or who see their “job” as being a parent? The obvious way would be for this to be an allowance that a parent can either use to fund childcare or as an income to support being at home with their child. Does it matter if we’re paying £6.5k to a private business to look after the child, or £6.5k to the parent to look after the child?

    Unless this is already in the detail of the policy, we risk making stay-at-home parents second class citizens both in terms of income and perception.

    I also remain unconvinced that a nursery is a better environment for a young child than being at home with a parent. Anything that puts pressure on a parent to return to work earlier than they would want (and this policy would do so) is a step in the wrong direction for me. We should be supporting parents to be with their children more and helping people balance that with careers – more flex working, encouraging take up of shared parenting rights, etc etc. Not just chucking money at putting kids into childcare.

    Great policy in principle but the wider ramifications on families need to be worked through.

  • Peter Watson 9th Nov '19 - 12:05pm

    @Dan M-B
    A very interesting take on this which reminds me of criticisms of the Coalition’s child benefit changes which meant a family with two salaries below the threshold could continue to receive the benefit despite a higher total income than a family with a single salary above the threshold.

  • Paul Barker 9th Nov '19 - 2:59pm

    I agree with the comments above, we should be promoting high-quality childcare to help children & give Parents more choice. That could be done very quickly by changing the instructions to Benefit Offices, I doubt we would even need legislation. That would be part of shifting the culture of Job Centres away from hassling the “unemployed”.
    We need to get away from the myth that paid work is somehow a good thing in itself, Children need to see their Parents & raising Children is one of the most important things most of us will ever do.

  • nigel hunter 9th Nov '19 - 4:19pm

    A complete radical change is needed. Companies must be encouraged by law if necessary to provide a creche or pay for one near the work place. Can increase employment and could lead to happier workers cos the child is near by.It is about work life balance leading to better productivity by reducing stress and worry. Transfer some business rates to encourage the company to consider such a proposal.

  • Great policy. Would be transformational for a lot of people. One we can all push with pride on the doorsteps of all those houses you encounter with toys and bikes strewn outside! Also, make sure we tell all the pregnant and newly-parents we know.
    One query though. Jo announced this in Battersea?? I thought the leaders tour was to target seats only. Is Battersea a target?

  • This is great for existing families but surely this is at odds with fighting climate change, the latter mostly down to massive overpopulation in the world and the UK needs to do its bit to discourage people from having kids in the future (with due allowance for women who may be pregnant when new laws come into effect). A few generations away AI will have taken all the jobs and we will mostly be just consumers so no real need for an excessive number of children. Thus a Green policy would be to remove all help, benefits etc for parents who have kids born after a certain date (say a year after the law is passed to take into account pregnancies etc). to discourage people from getting pregnant. Enough will have kids regardless to keep the population ticking over in gentle decline mode, which in turn will make the country run much better.

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