Women’s Equality Party issues childcare challenge to Labour leadership contenders
It’s time to put childcare at the centre of progressive politics again, said the Women’s Equality Party today, as it challenged the two Labour Party leadership contenders to commit to introducing affordable childcare for all parents.
“Once upon a time, the Labour Party led the way on childcare. It was a pioneer for longer maternity leave, free early education, more affordable and higher quality childcare. These days, Labour is playing catch-up with the other parties,” said WEP leader Sophie Walker.
The Labour Party transformed government investment in childcare between 1997 and 2010, significantly increasing spending on childcare and financial support for parents. Under Labour, more parents took up parental leave and childcare and fewer children lived in poverty. But the Labour Party’s current offer of 25 hours per week free childcare for 3-4 year olds falls short of the Conservative commitment to 30 hours per week and Liberal Democrat plan for 20 hours from the end of parental leave.
“Affordable childcare should be the centrepiece of Labour’s plans to create a more equal society. The next Labour leader shouldn’t just be thinking about how to poke holes in the Conservative plan; they should be making the case for a transformational investment in childcare,” added Walker.
“Any party that is serious about equality needs to bring down the costs of childcare and close the huge gap between the end of parental leave and free childcare. Without bold changes women will keep dropping out of the workplace and men will keep dropping out of their families. This is bad for our economy and our society,” said Walker.
The Women’s Equality Party has a fully costed plan for introducing affordable childcare for all children from the end of parental leave at 9 months until school age. The first 15 hours a week – where the educational benefits of childcare are clearest – will be paid for by the Government, funded by the introduction of a single rate of pension tax relief. Any remaining childcare requirements would be payable at £1 an hour by parents.
“We challenge Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith to take on our childcare policy, where the first 15 hours a week are free until school age and the rest payable at £1 per hour,” explained Walker. “Childcare is the biggest concern on the doorstep because parents are struggling to balance work and family life without breaking the bank. It is time the Labour Party renewed its commitment to parents.”
New research this month by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed that more and more families are struggling to make ends meet because of childcare costs.“Just a two per cent increase in government spending on care could create over a million jobs, enable hundreds of thousands of women to return to work, and boost the economy by billions. We all stand to benefit.”
The Women’s Equality Party has also set the new Prime Minister a 100-day challenge to commit to six key gender equality targets, including affordable childcare. The Conservative’s childcare plan has faced significant setbacks due to insufficient funding. WEP’s #100daysofMay campaign runs until 22 October, Theresa May’s one hundredth day in Number Ten.
Published August 01, 2016