Bottomley to target child care

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Indy Politics
MORE HELP with child care for working families is one of the priorities for Virginia Bottomley in a new role as co-ordinator on family policy.

The Secretary of State for Health is working on initiatives on child care to allow more parents to take jobs. They will go beyond the help provided in the Budget for those on family credit who are to receive up to pounds 28 a week in childcare allowances to enable parents to work.

Whitehall sources said it would not be coupled with more money, but it marks a shift from the Thatcher era when the former Prime Minister resisted policy to help mothers to go to work because it was against 'the family'.

That shift was started by Gillian Shephard, the former Secretary of State for Employment, and carried on by David Hunt, her successor.

Mrs Bottomley's role will be that of co-ordinator. She will not chair a Cabinet committee and the lead on policy will remain with individual departments. 'It's mainly co-ordinating and fronting up the role,' one Whitehall insider said.

However, Mrs Bottomley's role could give her more influence on issues where there is tension between ministers, such as sex education, divorce law reform, and child crime.

Mrs Bottomley will back the Lord Chancellor on no-fault divorce after a year. She will bring forward adoption law reform and wants sex education included in the curriculum.