Liberal Democrats on Childcare

All parents know that a child’s brain starts growing and developing from the moment they are born. Every child should be offered a good pre-school education, and every parent should be free to choose how they balance work and family life.

Liberal Democrats have made dramatic improvements since 2010, extending free childcare for three and four-year olds to 15 hours a week and introducing it for 40% of two-year olds. But we want to go much further, with an ambitious goal of 20 hours of free childcare a week for all two to four-year olds and all children of working parents from nine months.

We will start by providing 15 hours a week of free childcare for all two-year olds, and then extending it to all working parents from the end of their paid parental leave when their child is nine months old.

Why is free childcare necessary?

Parents should be free to choose how they balance work and family life, and shouldn’t be penalised for the decisions they make. Offering every child a high quality pre-school education will also help them start school confident, happy and ready to learn. However, many families with young children struggle with the cost of childcare, and the system is fragmented, complex and sometimes difficult for parents to understand.

We believe in a comprehensive system of early years support that will ultimately give every child access to pre-school education from the age of two, and free childcare for all working parents from the end of paid parental leave.

How will this benefit families?

Our plans will ease the pressure on household budgets by cutting the cost of childcare. Crucially, they will also improve social mobility.  High quality pre-school education plays a vital role in preparing children – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds – for school, and in boosting their educational attainment.

What type of childcare will it include?

Every two year old will be eligible for 570 hours a
year from an Ofsted approved provider of their parents’ choice.  This includes nursery schools; nurseries on school sites; children’s centres; day nurseries and childminders.

Do both parents have to work to get free childcare for 9 month olds?

We will extend free childcare to children aged between nine months and two years if all the parents in their household are in work.  This could be both parents in a two-parent home, or just one parent in a single-parent family. Both will qualify. Unlike the Tories, we will support all families whatever shape and size they are – not just the families we approve of.


We will be posting more about how the other parties are going to tackle childcare soon.

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