Harriet Harman

Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election and I am no longer an MP

May South London Press Column

 

Parents urgently need affordable, high-quality childcare – let’s turn the page on Tory failure

Affordable, high-quality and accessible childcare is important not just because it enables parents to work, but because it gives every child a fair start in life.

Childcare should be as much part of our economic infrastructure as transport – a functioning childcare system is as important as the rails and the roads which take us to work.

Without it many parents, mainly mothers, will miss out on work, or earn less than they should – and the economy will not grow to its full potential.

Sadly, many parents in Camberwell and Peckham tell me they simply cannot find the childcare they need. A report this week by the Fawcett Society showed 85% of UK mothers cannot get the hours or days they need. Under the Conservatives childcare has become less workable for the majority of UK families.

While the recent expansion of free hours was welcome, nursery leaders tell me they are struggling to meet parents’ demand and lay on the new hours due to a lack of staff. How after 14 years do the Tories still have no strategy for increasing the early years workforce?

Offering families free funded childcare hours are no good if nurseries can't safely staff them: families across the country urgently need a credible long-term solution so they can plan their lives. This is what Labour will deliver.

The last Labour government’s National Childcare Strategy led to a massive increase in childcare provision. There were 2,500 more childcare places in Southwark alone.

We did this through childcare tax credits, Sure Start Centres and nurseries in the NHS and colleges. And the benefits of these changes stayed with children for life. A recent report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that children from low-income families who grew up near a Sure Start centre did better than their peers at GCSEs. This is the difference a Labour government will make. 

The next Labour government will once again make childcare our priority – we know it is government’s responsibility to deliver on this. We will work with local authorities to boost the availability in places where provision is currently letting so many families down. It is not right that in 2024 Britain lags far behind other European countries in terms of the amount of free hours parents are able to access. 

Let’s turn the page on Tory failure and treat childcare like we would any other crucial pillar of the country’s infrastructure, so all new families get the best possible start.

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published this page in Current News 2024-05-28 16:25:45 +0100

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