Political parties are attempting to attract the votes of working parents with pre-school children. What are their manifesto pledges on childcare?
What is currently on offer
All three and four-year-olds in England are entitled to 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year, which works out as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year. The coalition government expanded this to the most deprived two year olds.
From September, three and four-year-olds in England will be entitled to 30 free hours of care per week in term time.
The government has also introduced a new scheme for tax-free childcare, aimed at working parents earning less than £100,000 a year each.
And parents can claim back up to 85% of childcare costs if they are eligible for universal credit.
In Scotland, three and four-year-old children are eligible for 600 hours of free early learning and childcare per year – about 16 hours every week during term time.
In Wales, all three and four-year-olds are entitled to a minimum of 10 hours of free foundation phase early education. The Welsh government is running a pilot scheme that is offering 30 hours a week for 48 weeks a year.
In Northern Ireland, under the pre-school education programme, there is an allocation of funded places for children in the year before they start school.
The parties’ proposals
- The Conservatives say they will introduce 30 hours of free childcare for three and four-year-olds for working parents and will establish a capital fund to help primary schools that do not have the facilities to provide a nursery to provide one.
- The Green Party wants free universal early education and childcare for all children, with formal education starting at seven years old.
- Labour says it wants more free childcare, expanding free provisions for two, three and four year olds. It wants 30-hours free childcare to be extended to two-year-olds and “some” to one-year-olds.
- The Liberal Democrats would extend free childcare to all two-year-olds and to the children of working families from the end of paid parental leave. It wants 30 hours of free childcare a week for all parents in England with children aged from two to four years.
- Plaid Cymru will provide free full-time nursery places for all three-year-olds.
- The Women’s Equality Party will offer universal free childcare for parents.
- UKIP says it would make promote nursery or creche provision in shopping centres, office blocks, hospitals, airports, and railway stations and require local authorities to keep a register of childcare providers for short notice cover.