Ahead of her debate today, Labour's Bridget Phillipson tells Central Lobby why parents' voices on childcare costs must be heard.
Affordable and accessible childcare benefits families, encourages economic growth and promotes social mobility. There is also clear evidence that high quality, early-years childcare leads to improved outcomes for children, particularly those from the most deprived backgrounds.
The previous Labour government understood these benefits. Fifteen years ago we made childcare a central priority and commissioned the first National Childcare Strategy. This was later followed by the introduction of Child Tax Credits and over 3,500 Sure Start Centres. Labour's legacy proved that childcare wasn't a private family matter, but one where government has a role to play in ensuring availability and affordability of high quality places.
This legacy is under threat. Families with pre-school children are being hit with a triple blow of spiralling childcare costs, a reduction of nursery places and a cut in financial support. Under the current government over 500 Sure Start centres have closed, there are 35,000 fewer childcare places and the cost of childcare has risen five times faster than wages.
Ministers have completely failed to understand the financial pressures facing parents, but unlike them, Labour is listening to families and their concerns. That’s why Ed Miliband has set out plans to require primary schools to guarantee that care is available between 8am-6pm. We would also extend free childcare for three and four year olds from 15 to 25 hours per week for working parents.
This afternoon I will be outlining our approach in greater detail in my Westminster Hall debate on the cost of childcare. I know this a huge issue for many of my constituents who are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet as childcare costs continue to rise.
It’s clear that childcare will be a key policy area at the next general election. In the run up to 2015, Labour will continue to challenge Ministers who have failed on childcare and make sure that parents' voices are heard.