by derekdeedman on 8 September, 2017
Layla was silenced when she tried to question Theresa May on her broken promise for free childcare. Well, they can’t silence her now
It turns out that the childcare on offer isn’t free after all. It all seemed like a great idea until the Government realised they were actually going to have to pay for it
The Government promised free childcare for three and four year olds, and they have not delivered
The Government’s plans to help parents by offering 30 hours per week of free childcare for 3 and 4 years from 1st September sounded great.
During the election Layla was approach by a lady pushing a pram. She asked her what she really cared about and she told her that all she wanted was for politicians to help people like her. With rising costs of housing, travel and food, as well as the cost of childcare itself, she faced an all too common dilemma of wanting to go back to work, but not being able to because its financially not worth their while.
The news that parents would get 30 hours a week of free childcare for all three and four year olds came as a relief, as it offered the chance for women to return to work, as a structured and cost-friendly option was being put on the table for them.
This was an extension of policies the Liberal Democrats pushed in the Coalition government and is one of the answers to closing the gender pay gap, as well as allowing parents a real choice about how they want to bring up their families.
But – and it is a big but – it turns out that this childcare isn’t free after all. It all seemed like a great idea until the Government realised they were actually going to have to pay for it.
Quite simply, the Government aren’t giving child minders and nurseries enough money to actually deliver these places for three and four year olds, and make a living at the same time. In England 74 per cent of providers said they would not be able to cover their costs.
As a result, the Government could be forcing people who work in childcare and early years education to work for less than the living wage. Some providers – entirely understandably – won’t be offering this “free” 30 hours of childcare as they won’t get paid enough to make it worth their while. They will lose out, while the Tories take full credit.
Stories Layla has heard include child minders and nurseries having to increase the cost of childcare for under-threes in order to make up the shortfall. Many more have started charging parents for extras like nappies, baby wipes, lunches and early/late pick-ups that had previously been included.
She questioned Theresa May at PMQs on this topic, on behalf of her constituents, parents, child minders and nurseries across the country. While Conservative MPs sat opposite her jeered and laughed as she tried to ask a question on behalf of millions of parents across the country, Layla urged the Prime Minister to apologise for this misleading policy promise.
After all, the Government is claiming credit for “free” childcare when it isn’t free – in some cases isn’t available at all.
Instead of burying their heads in the sand and pretending this is all ok, the Prime Minister and her Government must realise, sooner rather than later, that they need to provide a decent amount for funding for child minders and nurseries so that parents can access the “free” childcare they were promised. Not addressing the problem will result in many mothers not being able to return to work, or being saddled with huge childcare costs. It’s time the Government stopped penny pinching and started implementing this policy properly.
The Lib Dems and Layla will be keeping up the fight for a fair deal for parents and for childcare providers. After all, nothing matters more than investment in our children. This one is one worth getting right.
Layla Moran is the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Education and Young People
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