With the upcoming UK Parliamentary elections on 12 December, the main political parties have been setting out their childcare policy commitments prompting concerns from the sector over the lack of detail on how the plans will be funded.

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to:

  • give working families access to free childcare from nine months old

  • give all families access to free childcare from age two to four

  • extend the 30-hour offer to 35 hours for 48 weeks a year

  • increase funding levels for early years providers by 37% for two-year-olds and 20% for three and four-year-olds.

The Liberal Democrats predict these proposals will cost around £14.6 billion which will be funded by reversing cuts to corporation tax and increasing capital gains tax.

The Labour party has promised:

  • to provide 30 hours per week of free care to all children aged between two and four.

  • £1 billion investment into reopening Sure Start Children’s centres

  • plans to establish a national pay scale to raise standards of care by creating a graduate-led workforce, improving skill levels of staff.

Meanwhile the Conservatives have just launched their manifesto and have pledged to establish a £1bn fund to be spent on after-school and holiday childcare, with plans to create 250,000 extra childcare places during the holidays for primary school age children.

The early years sector has raised concerns over the lack of funding details in the plans and questions whether political parties are indulging in a "game of one-upmanship" in their bids to extend free childcare.

Jonathan Broadbery, the National Day Nurseries Association’s (NDNA) Head of Policy and External Relations, said:

“The election is a chance to put high-quality childcare at the heart of the agenda and recognise the benefits of investing in our children at the earliest age. Access to affordable childcare helps children reach their full potential and supports parents in work or training.”

“However, politicians need to avoid an arms race of ever-expanding promises that cannot be kept. It is vital that any pledges are fully costed and part of that should involve telling nurseries and childcare providers the planned funding rates for the promised hours.”

“The system needs to work for children, parents and providers. Before parties publish their manifesto promises they need to set out how they will fix the current challenges and ensure their policies won’t leave providers high and dry, or parents without childcare because their local nursery is forced to close."

Last reviewed 25 November 2019