Ministers re-invent the granny flat

AFTER decades of separation caused by "on your bike" economics, parents, grandparents and children will be able to live side by side under government plans to re-invent the extended family.

Builders could be told they must include granny flats in new estates or risk planning refusal, a Green Paper to be previewed today by Harriet Harman, Secretary of State for Social Security, will say.

The radical plans to place new emphasis on the support grandparents and parents can give to one another have been drawn up by a ministerial sub- committee on women. They will form part of the Government's National Childcare Strategy, to be published around Easter in a Green Paper but outlined by in a debate in Parliament today.

The idea is that when new estates are built, as many will be as planners meet an estimated demand for 4.4 million more homes by 2016, the needs of extended families will be taken into consideration. Local authorities may be able to refuse permission for plans that do not include a suitable mixture of one-, two- and three-bedroom homes as well as granny flats. The move is intended to enable families who so wish to live near one another so grandparents can help with childcare and their children can later support them.

The idea was looked at before but was dropped because of fears of creating all-white ghettoes. Now it is hoped that second- and third-generation immigrants will able to take up the schemes, too.

Also being outlined today in a Commons debate on women's issues will be plans for a network of out-of-school clubs and pre-school facilities.

Under these plans, local authorities will co-ordinate plans from a range of private, voluntary and public organisations, and will then bid for central government funding. From next April there will be pounds 40m for the first tranche of a pounds 300m package to provide a million out-of-school places compared with only 100,000 at present.

The Government will expect to see evidence that the schemes will include education and child development as well as underpinning the Welfare to Work programme.

Ms Harman will today detail the patchiness of existing childcare provision, which can be several times more plentiful in some areas than in others.

The Department for Education and Employment is working with the Department of Health to draw up an inspection programme to ensure high quality in all the new childcare provision, which will include a network of centres of excellence for the under-fives. Both departments have been working closely with the Department of Social Security.

Last night Ms Harman said the new childcare strategy would prove the Government was making rapid progress on its manifesto commitments.

"There has long been a demand for childcare which has been ignored by government except for a broken promise from Margaret Thatcher on nursery education," she said. "We said we would have a National Childcare Strategy and we are now delivering it."

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