General Election 2019: Employers For Childcare calls for much needed investment in our vital childcare infrastructure
Ahead of the General Election in December, Employers For Childcare is highlighting the issues that must be prioritised by policy-makers and political parties. These are set out in our Manifesto which proposes key actions that can be taken to benefit parents and families, employers and society as a whole. Childcare is a vital part of our infrastructure, and must receive the investment it needs to ensure it is affordable, accessible and high quality. This will give our children the best start in life, support parents to get into and stay in work, education and training, and contribute to the economy, at the same time ensuring childcare providers are sustainable.
Ahead of the General Election, parties in Westminster are pledging ambitious childcare plans for families, elevating this important issue to one of real prominence:
Conservatives: The Conservative Party is highlighting the policies it has introduced in recent years including a free childcare scheme for three and four year olds, and Tax-Free Childcare. Some proposals suggested by Conservative MPs include introducing funded childcare for all two-year olds, extending a scheme that is currently available for parents in receipt of welfare support (e.g. Universal Credit or Income Support) and extending the current childcare offer for all three and four-year olds.
Labour: Labour has pledged that a Labour led government would open 1,000 new Sure Start centres in England and expand funded childcare to 30 hours a week for all two, three and four-year olds.
Liberal Democrats: The Liberal Democrats have also made an increase in the availability of free childcare the centrepiece of their party’s manifesto, and promised to introduce 35 hours per week of free childcare for working families from the day their baby turns nine months old, up until they reach primary school age.
Across the UK, parties have recognised the importance of this issue to families, and recent weeks have seen other developments such as the Scottish Nationalist Party pledging to introduce free school holiday childcare for eligible primary school pupils in Scotland.
While it is positive that the importance of childcare has been recognised, and is featuring prominently in the election campaign, it is vital that politicians recognise the need to ensure pledges are followed through with real and adequate investment in childcare. Promises must be fully costed, with a realistic assessment made of the investment needed. Equally, assurances are required as to how childcare will be made more affordable for families, while ensuring high quality standards are maintained and childcare providers receive the funding they need to be sustainable.
Childcare is a devolved matter, so the introduction of any policies such as those outlined above, will require a Northern Ireland executive and an Assembly to be in place. Northern Ireland remains the only UK jurisdiction without funded childcare provision. To drive policy and legislative development, a new All-Party Assembly Working Group on Early Education and Childcare has been established. This is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and has received support from all Northern Ireland parties. We welcome this political commitment and are working hard to ensure it will translate into real action by pushing for the implementation of a fully-costed and ambitious Childcare Strategy, underpinned by legislation.
Without political will and policy development, change will not happen. In our Manifesto, we are calling on our politicians to put families first by investing in vital services, making childcare a priority.
Read our full Policy Manifesto here.