Universal childcare is the missing part of our welfare state

News Desk (29 May, 2019) Columnists

'All parents with children in primary school must have the certainty that childcare is available from 8am to 6pm'

1511Harriet Harman, MP for Camberwell and Peckham

Access to affordable, quality childcare is essential for parents to able to work and it helps children get a good start in their life, writes Camberwell and Peckham MP, Harriet Harman…

Yet after all the progress on childcare when Labour were last in government, working parents are now finding it harder to get the childcare they need.

Under this Tory government since 2010, the cost of childcare is rising faster than people’s wages. 1,000 Sure Start children’s centres across the country have closed and many more have reduced the services they provide.

And this is hitting hard-working parents in Southwark.

The Government’s scheme of 30 hours free childcare a week for 3 and 4 year olds is not working. Because The Government has failed to ensure that funding keeps up with the rising costs of providing childcare for nurseries to actually deliver the extra hours of free care the Government has promised parents.

Providers are being asked to deliver more, whilst facing a real term funding cut between now and 2020. The current funding level was set almost 4 years and doesn’t take into account significant operating cost increases in that time, such as business rate rises, rent, increases to the National Minimum Wage and pensions.

This has left parents and child carers subsidising the Government’s new offer. Which is simply not sustainable.

If this funding crisis continues, more childcare centres will close. More parents will be unable to afford a childcare place meaning they will be unable to work and earn for their family. This hits single parents and those on low incomes disproportionately hard.

I am backing the parent-led Early Years Alliance’s Fair Future Funding campaign and will continue to do all I can in Parliament to demand the Government properly funds universal childcare. All parents with children in primary school must have the certainty that childcare is available from 8am to 6pm.

Universal childcare is the missing part of our welfare state – a product of an old reality decades ago, where women did not get to go out to work, but stayed home to look after children. We need a universal free childcare system to reflect the reality of parents’ lives today and to liberate parents from the expense and worry of juggling home and work.

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