New Labour childcare offer favour rich but excludes poorest

Plaid Cymru denounces policy that subsidises families earning £200,000 a year

Labour’s new childcare policy will subsidise free childcare for the wealthiest families while excluding those from the poorest households looking to return to work says Plaid Cymru’s shadow education secretary Llyr Gruffydd AM, as the Children, Young People & Education Committee publishes its Stage 1 report on the Childcare Funding (Wales) Bill.

Confirming Plaid Cymru’s intention to vote against allowing the Bill to proceed to the next legislative stage, Llyr Gruffydd AM said: “Imagine a policy that provided 30 hours per week of free childcare for high-flying couples earning up to £200,000 a year while not providing the same for parents looking to return to work. People would wonder what crazy, right-wing think-tank had devised that sort of unfair system. Yet this is what the Labour Government in Wales is proposing to do. If they get away with it, they’ll be making the attainment gap between the poorest and better off children into a yawning chasm.

“By contrast, Plaid Cymru’s National Assembly election manifesto pledged free childcare, universally available to all 3-4 year olds. The primary purpose of this fully costed policy was to give every child the best possible start in life.

“All the evidence shows that access to good quality childcare strengthens children’s cognitive and social skills. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists has clearly highlighted its benefits to vocabulary and literacy development, which in turn improves educational attainment.”

“This is especially true of children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.  There are nearly a third of Welsh children living in poverty and many are not covered by Flying Start provision, so I’m particularly passionate that those children are no longer left behind.”

Llyr Gruffydd AM said he could not support Labour’s policy of providing free childcare only to working parents – including couples earning up to £200,000 a year, whilst denying those from the poorest, workless households the same opportunity.

Subsidy for Wales’ wealthiest families

His concerns are shared by many across the sector, most notably the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, children’s organisations such as Save the Children and teaching unions such as the NASUWT.

Llyr Gruffydd AM said: “The policy targets funding by restricting its provisions to the children of working parents only. The Children’s Commissioner described Labour’s Bill as providing a large subsidy for some of Wales’ wealthiest families and warns that excluding non-working parents was ‘likely to reinforce inequalities in outcomes for different social groups’.

“It’s shocking to note that children aged just three from the poorest families are already around 10 months behind those from better-off backgrounds in terms of development. This policy risks widening that school readiness gap, and children who fall behind early are more likely to remain behind throughout their education.

“Because the majority of children in poverty live outside the defined Flying Start areas, these disadvantaged children in Wales will fall through the gaps and find themselves without the childcare support their better-off peers will enjoy.”

“It is ironic that the Minister responsible for this Bill, Huw Irranca-Davies, has recently based his bid for the Welsh Labour leadership on the need for universal pre-school provision. By his own admission, universal childcare, which is what Plaid Cymru proposes, helps address the impacts of poverty. It narrows the attainment gap when children start school. And it transforms the life chances of these children as they grow into adulthood and throughout their lives.

“As the Minister responsible for childcare in Wales he has the power to introduce free universal childcare now. Indeed, had he voted for Plaid Cymru at the last Assembly election we would have already started introducing it.”

 

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