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Labour pledge to restore Sure Start centres as 'family hubs'

Article By: Julia Corbett, News Editor

Releasing the Labour manifesto, leader Ed Miliband has pledged to prioritise early intervention and restore the role of Sure Start centres in communities to give families the ‘best start in life’.

Mr Milibandpublished the party’s manifesto yesterday, promising to fund an extension of free childcare for three and four year olds from 15 to 25 hours, to be paid for by an increase in the bank levy. Currently 15 hours of free child care is provided to all families with a three or four year old where both parents are working.

Introducing the manifesto, Mr Miliband said: “I take a simple view. We are a great country, but we can be even better.

“The fundamental truth that runs through this manifesto is that Britain will only succeed when working people succeed. It is an idea at the heart of my beliefs. And it drives our better plan for a better future. “For me, the privilege of serving as Prime Minister in our country would be for one purpose alone: to work every day to help build a country that works again for working people.”

Labour have also promised wraparound care for primary school aged children from 8am to 6pm at night, through a range of afterschool clubs and activities to help working parents and help raise the aspirations of children.

Plans to double paternity leave from two to four weeks and increase paternity pay by over £100 a week were revealed.

The Labour part manifesto stated said: “Labour recognises the vital importance of the power of people’s relationships to build the capacity for love, care and resilience. We will prioritise early years intervention to give children and parents the best start in family life, and restore the role of Sure Start centres as family hubs. Sure Start will have an obligation to provide families with access to childcare, opening their facilities to charities and local childcare providers. More widely, we will encourage local services to co-locate, so that they work together to shift from sticking plaster solutions to integrated early help.

“We will help families by expanding free childcare from 15 to 25 hours per week for working parents of three and four-year-olds, paid for with an increase in the bank levy. We will also introduce a legal guarantee for parents of primary school children to access wraparound childcare from 8am to 6pm through their local primary school. As well as helping parents, this will provide children with before and after-school clubs and activities, helping to raise their aspirations and attainment. This will be underpinned by a new National Primary Childcare Service, a not for profit organisation to promote the voluntary and charitable delivery of quality extracurricular activities.”

However the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has questioned both Labour and the Conservatives' manifesto plans to increase free childcare entitlement, callin for whoever is next ibn government to address current funding issues which mean 85 per cent of nurseries currently make a loss as a result of the scheme.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA, said: “While we welcome this commitment to provide more support to families with the cost of childcare, we warn that doubling the number of hours will just double the problem, resulting in significant cost increases for parents of children under three and also nursery closures.

“With the current 15 free hours, there is already a chronic underfunding issue, so any extension of this provision must be thoroughly costed and properly funded so that it can be delivered sustainably and without a reduction in quality.

“For most nurseries, the average sum received of £3.80 per hour does not cover the cost of high-quality childcare.

“We are pleased that politicians recognise the benefit and value of free early education, but the quality of this provision needs to continue to be high for this to be effective.

“In the private, voluntary and independent nursery sector which delivers more than 80 per cent of the country’s childcare, 86 per cent of nurseries hold a good or outstanding Ofsted judgement. They are capable of offering this high quality early education, but the resources must be there to pay for it and develop the workforce.”


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