To the point: What mothers vote for

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Daycare Trust is the childcare voice for parents and children, and this election we are calling on all politicians to make it the top priority in the next parliament by signing up to our Childcare Charter.

Continued investment in early education and childcare is the kind of family support that makes a real difference to families throughout the country, and it seems that we're not the only ones who feel strongly about this. Our Childcare Charter - a six-point manifesto, rapidly gaining the support of politicians, parents, and providers - also includes reference to our new research with Bounty Mums (www.bounty.com) showing exactly why childcare must be a key issue both at the election and beyond.

We spoke to 2,500 mothers about the issues that mattered to them, and the impact of childcare policies on their voting intentions was clear to see. Seven out of ten said they would be less likely to vote for a party that reduced or removed the free childcare entitlement for threeand four-year-olds, and two-thirds wouldn't vote for a party that reduced or removed tax credits.

Childcare vouchers, child trust funds and Sure Start Children's Centres were also identified as policies they were fiercely protective of - so any party planning to threaten these policies is likely to suffer at the polls.

No doubt during the election campaign we'll hear speeches and soundbites from politicians of every hue about families and children, yet we still spend less on childcare than many other countries - around £4bn, compared with £23bn on higher education.

When money is short we need value. Yet we know spending has the biggest impact if invested in the first few years of a child's life. OECD and Unicef say minimum spending should be one per cent of GDP, yet we spend only half of this. This is a small price to pay for equalising life chances and well-being and reducing future child poverty.

Our Childcare Charter sets out the next steps needed in our National Childcare Strategy to extend free childcare beyond 15 hours, increase childcare costs covered by tax credits to 100 per cent, improve flexible working, guarantee out-of-school and holiday childcare, and extend Sure Start services.

Winning votes means taking the practical steps needed to ensure a truly family-friendly Britain and to guarantee children the best possible start in life.

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