The 2015 General Election is fast approaching and the need for family-friendly agendas has become a priority amongst the political parties in recent times.
The previous Coalition Government represented a major change in childcare policies, with many initiatives being implemented later this year. We have seen the development of Tax-Free Childcare, a new scheme available to nearly 2 million households from autumn 2015, which will replace the current childcare vouchers programme. This year, we have also seen the right for all employees to be able to request flexible working and the introduction of Shared Parental Leave – providing greater choice for employees in how to share their time off work and care for their dependants.
Childcare is an issue which in one way or another affects everyone, and it’s refreshing to see political parties continue taking a leading role this election in supporting modern families in Britain today.
Affordability is a hot-topic, and the majority of parties have pledged to increase the amount of free childcare per week for three and four year olds, with parties raising the current entitlement from 15 hours per week to at least 25 hours per week.
In addition, the Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties have pledged to complete the introduction of Tax-Free Childcare, which will provide up to £2,000 of childcare support for each child. The Labour party have also pledged to double paternity leave to four weeks and increase paternity pay.
Accessibility also remains an important focus, with the need to provide working families with access to high-quality childcare. The Labour party aim to introduce a new National Primary Childcare Service, guaranteeing childcare from 8:00am to 6:00pm, and also to prioritise early intervention to give children and parents the best start in family life. The party also plan to restore the role of Sure Start centres as family hubs, opening their facilities to charities and local providers.
In addition, the Green Party also pledge to build a free but voluntary universal early education and childcare service, and integrate universal early education and childcare service into the local education service.
Providing high-quality childcare is the final piece of the puzzle for the party policies, and investing in the quality of care is of the upmost importance. The Liberal Democrats aim to improve early education and protect the wide range of family support services offered in Children’s Centres, integrating childcare with other community services. The party also aim to improve the quality of early years teaching, and raise the status of those who work in early years through an increase in Early Years Teacher qualifications.
High-quality is also at the forefront of the Green Party’s agenda, who have pledged to ensure that those who lead in early years education are qualified teachers, with qualified teacher status and specialist knowledge of early years education.
With childcare at the forefront of the agenda, what does this tell us about parents’ perspective on family-friendly agendas?
Research is clear that for the majority of parents, family is the highest priority, and providing affordable, accessible, high-quality care is therefore highly important – not just enabling parents to return to work and prosper, but also placing children on a trajectory to success and investing in the future.
New government policies must reflect the caring demands of today’s modern employees and 2015 will be a big change for policy.