Conservatives want to see a society where opportunities are equal, regardless of background, and everyone has a chance to get on in life. For children, high-quality childcare has a lasting impact on their development and life chances. Parents want to know they can rely on their children being safely looked after while they go out to work or fulfil other caring responsibilities.
That’s why over the last five years Conservatives have taken action to make more high-quality, affordable childcare available to families. Our measures over the last five years have been aimed at taking some of the pressure off household budgets and helping families achieve peace of mind.
Parents need strong, well-funded childcare provision so they can go out and work – and so work pays. That’s why we have committed the next Conservative government to fund 30 hours of free childcare for all working parents of 3 and 4-year olds, worth £5,000 to each family. We’ve already extended the universal entitlement so that all parents can access free childcare for 15 hours a week; as can over a quarter of a million 2-year-olds from low-income families. To help families make their money go that bit further, from autumn 2015 tax-free childcare will be available to nearly 2 million households. Under the scheme, for every 80p parents pay for childcare costs, the Government will top up an extra 20p.
We know that parents also need to have confidence that their children are going to be safe and happy while they are being looked after, so improving the quality of childcare has been a priority. We are raising standards in the childcare profession by imposing more rigorous entry requirements, so parents can feel confident that their children are being well cared-for.
To help new mums and dads make the best choices for their families, we are introducing a new system of shared parental leave, which will allow parents of a new-borns to take their time off work in up to three blocks, instead of all at once. Our offer has given parents a choice whether to go to work or stay at home and enabled fathers as well as mothers to be primary carers and take extended time out of work, giving families more flexibility.
As well as making childcare more affordable, we’ve taken steps to make it more widely available to parents. We are encouraging more schools to offer nursery provision and to open from 8am to 6pm. We have also made it easier for schools to teach children under three by getting rid of the requirement to register separately with Ofsted if they want to do that.
Good quality, affordable childcare provision that suits parents’ needs is what everyone should have a right to expect. Conservatives understand this and have been working to a plan to make that a reality. But this can only be achieved by staying on the road to a stronger, healthier economy. Only the Conservatives have a clear economic plan, and the competent leadership to secure a better future for families.