School days from 8am to 6pm? Labour pledges new childcare guarantee
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Sunday 17 November 2013
Ed Miliband will open a new front in his campaign over the “cost of living crisis” on Monday, pledging more help with childcare if Labour wins power.
New figures compiled by Labour suggest that parents working part-time on average wages now have to work from Monday to Thursday just to cover their childcare costs each week. The party claims the cost of nursery places has risen by 30 per cent since the 2010 election – five times faster than pay.
On a visit to a nursery in London, Mr Miliband will promise that Labour will introduce a “legal guarantee” of 8am-6pm provision at primary schools, through breakfast and after-school clubs. Labour announced in September that it would provide 25 hours a week free childcare for three and four-year-olds whose parents work, up from the current 15 hours.
Figures to be published by Labour on Monday show that the average weekly cost of 25 hours of nursery care in England rose from £82 in 2010 to £107 this year, while average weekly earnings have increased from £449 to £477 over the same period. This means that nursery costs as a proportion of average earnings have risen from 18 to 22 per cent.
Labour claims there are 35,000 fewer childcare places after the closure of 576 Sure Start centres since the last election.
Mr Miliband, whose pledge to freeze energy bills for 20 months has set the political agenda, sees the “childcare crunch” as a big factor in the living standards crisis facing millions of families.
He will say: “The cost of a nursery place is now the highest in history, at more than £100 a week to cover part-time hours. And average costs for a full-time place are now rising up to £200 or even more. That means a typical parent doing a part-time job would have to work from Monday until Thursday just to cover these costs of childcare.”
The Labour leader will say: “Parents are facing a daily obstacle course as they seek to balance work and family life. Under the last Government, 99 per cent of schools provided access to breakfast clubs and after-school clubs. But more than a third of local authorities have reported this has been scaled back in their area under David Cameron.”
Mr Miliband will add: “If it’s bad for families, it’s bad for Britain too. Parents who want to work should be able to do so. We need to use the talents of everyone if we are to succeed as an economy and keep social security bills down. Seven out of 10 stay at home mums tell surveys that the cost of childcare has deterred them from looking for a job.”
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