General election: Liberal Democrats pledge 35 hours of free childcare from nine months for working parents

Jo Swinson says proposal would give parents more choice about when they return to work and 'unlock untapped potential for economy'

May Bulman
Saturday 09 November 2019 10:53
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The most expensive years for raising a child are when he or she is between the ages of one and four
The most expensive years for raising a child are when he or she is between the ages of one and four

Working parents could receive 35 hours of free childcare each week for babies once they turn nine months under plans announced by the Liberal Democrats.

Party leader Jo Swinson said the proposal would give parents more choice about when they return to work and “unlock their untapped potential for the economy” as part of her “bold plan to build a brighter future”.

The Lib Dems have pledged to provide every child aged two to four with 35 hours of free childcare for 48 weeks of the year, which they said would be extended to children aged between nine and 24 months where their parents are in work.

Announcing the plans, Ms Swinson said: “For so many people, the cost of childcare simply makes returning to work impossible. This hurts our economy and deprives our workforce of a vital pool of talent.

”The choice for parents now is simply not good enough. That is why Liberal Democrats are proposing a transformational change to our economy, by providing working parents with free childcare from when their child is nine months old.

“This will close the gap between the end of paid parental leave and the start of free childcare provision. It will finally give parents more choice about when they return to work and unlock their untapped potential for our economy.”

The plans, which the party estimates would cost £14.6bn a year, would be funded by reversing cuts to corporation tax and increasing capital gains tax, according to Ms Swinson, who will formally launch the policy at a rally in Battersea on Saturday.

The announcement comes as Labour vowed to expand free childcare provision to offer 30 hours per week of free care to all children aged between two and four.

Parents of children aged between three and four are currently entitled to 15 hours per week of free childcare, with 30 hours available to those meeting strict criteria.

The current system has been criticised by MPs for “entrenching disadvantage” by failing to target the poorest families who need it most.

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