25 Sep 2018, Meredith Jones Russell
In his leader’s speech at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool tomorrow (Wednesday 26 September), Jeremy Corbyn will announce his proposals for a ‘radical expansion and transformation of free universal childcare.’
The Labour leader will set out plans to introduce 30 hours childcare for all two-, three- and four-year-olds with no means testing, and phase in additional subsidised hours of childcare on top of these entitlements.
The additional hours would be free for families with incomes under £16,200 and £4 per hour for those with incomes above £66,000 a year.
Mr Corbyn will say that the current ‘patchy’ support for the early years is holding back too many parents and families, with Government childcare policy ‘free in name only’.
Labour will announce its plan to triple the graduate workforce, increase the proportion of staff with qualifications of Level 4 and above, and move towards requiring all staff to be qualified to Level 3.
The party will also create a national childcare access portal online with the aim of simplifying the childcare system for parents. Labour says this improved, simplified system would replace the current fragmented and often confusing one of childcare vouchers and credits.
Labour proposes to:
New early years workforce payscale under Labour plans
|Qualification level||DfE Provider Survey 2016, hourly rate||Hourly rate under new pay scale|
The National Day Nurseries Association welcomed the plans and the move to streamline childcare support into one online account, which it has long called for, but also stressed that the funded needed to be right.
Chief executive Purnima Tanuku said, ‘It is really positive to see the Labour Party engaging with the challenges of delivering high quality, affordable childcare - placing the child’s learning and wellbeing at the centre of its approach.
‘Jeremy Corbyn has recognised what many in the sector have been saying about the current system, that it is not free for either parents or providers.
‘NDNA welcomes the plans to adopt our recommendation for a Childcare Passport which would streamline all childcare support into one online account for each child. This would limit the complex administrative burden for parents and providers.’
‘While many nurseries would welcome this level of investment and proposed hourly funding rate, the sector is largely made up of private, voluntary or independent nurseries. These tailor their business model to satisfy local, parental demand. The funding must keep up with rising costs of delivery that increase year on year.
‘The correct level of funding for all these providers must be there from day one for this ambitious scheme to work. If Labour doesn’t get this right then they risks more nurseries folding under the cost pressures of such a large scale plan which will mean parents being unable to access the offer.’
The NDNA also welcomed Labour’s plans for a graduate-led workforce and for all staff to be qualified to or working towards Level 3.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, welcomed the plans in theory, but would need to see detailed costings to ensure they were sustainable.
'With early years providers having been overworked and underpaid for far too long, a plan to not just encourage but also financially support the development of a graduate-led workforce by delivering improved wages and a new national early years payscale is very positive in principle,' he said.
'That said, put together, Labour’s ambitious proposals – extending the so-called free entitlement and introducing subsidised care for all with seemingly no upper earning limit on eligibility, increasing funding rates to £7.35 per hour, and overhauling the childcare payment system – would be, to put mildly, incredibly costly. As such, as a sector that has all too often been on the end of improperly costed and inadequately funded pledges, many childcare providers will be understandably sceptical as to how all these proposals can collectively be delivered as outlined, even over an extended period of time.
'The direction of these proposals is certainly the right one – additional support for parents, a greater emphasis on supporting and valuing the early years workforce, and a focus on raising and maintaining quality across the sector. But, as always, the devil in the in the detail and we would need to see a lot more detail on how these proposals have been individually costed to feel reassured that this plan is indeed sustainable – or even possible – in the long term.'