Thank you to all those who contacted me about childcare provision.
Accessible and affordable childcare is vital infrastructure. It helps parents stay in jobs, delivers early education to the youngest children, and contributes to economic growth. Childcare needs to work for every family and be available in every corner of our country, but I am concerned parents are being forced out of work as fees increase and providers close down.
The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill includes proposals to introduce a new infrastructure levy, which would allow local authorities to raise money from developments largely to fund infrastructure such as roads, schools and affordable housing, without having to negotiate with developers as they do now.
However, the Bill does not explicitly list childcare facilities as a type of infrastructure local authorities can fund using money raised from the levy. Given the huge pressure on childcare places across the country, I believe there is a case for clearly stating that local authorities can use those funds towards childcare.
As a number of constituents highlighted, an amendment to the Bill was tabled at Report Stage on 13 December to include childcare in the list of facilities that may be funded, improved, replaced or maintained using money raised from developers. However, the amendment was not put to a vote or accepted by Ministers.
The Bill has now concluded its stages in the House of Commons, and it is currently progressing through the House of Lords.
I want to see a childcare system that delivers for children, is affordable for families and sustainable for providers. Yet, I am concerned the only real proposal the Government has brought forward and consulted on is increasing the number of children a member of staff can look after in early years settings. Not only does this risk reducing the quality of care without lowering costs, but it also fails to address issues with availability, standards and staffing.
I support calls for a complete transformation in how childcare is delivered from the end of parental leave to the start of secondary school. As a first step, I want to see breakfast clubs in every primary school and councils enabled to open more state nurseries. For further information on how I believe parents should be supported, please click here.