She says that a future Labour Government needs to bring about a new deal for parents, particularly mothers, who she claims are frozen out of the labour market because of ‘poor childcare options’, or stuck in ‘limbo jobs’ on low wages and with few prospects for promotion.
The Labour MP has proposed that the next Labour Government appoint a childcare and early years minister with cross-departmental responsibilities in the Department for BIS and DfE. The idea being that the minister would co-ordinate support for working parents across Government.
Ms Powell says that childcare is not just a Department for Education issue, and while early years education is vital for child development and early intervention, childcare should be seen by Government as a key infrastructure priority to promote growth and get people back to work.
She added, ‘Sufficient high-quality childcare should be used as an engine for growth. It is as important for a strong local economy as transport, infrastructure and skills.
‘The Government’s proposals will create more problems than they solve. We’ve already had the debacle over childcare ratios and childminder agencies could increase costs for business and parents, rather than reduce them. Quality could also suffer with the loss of individual inspection of childminders. Tax free childcare will not be introduced until 2015 and will benefit the richest the most.’
The Labour MP went on to say, ‘Childcare is a vital part of improving the economic prospects of this country, of critical importance to the economic future of many women, and in some cases men, so they can return to work at a level and pay they were receiving before having children.
‘It’s time for a new deal for parents and mothers particularly. Childcare should support women back to work immediately after maternity leave if parents choose this with help at six, nine, 12 or 18 months.’