Plaid to oppose Labour Childcare bill because it ‘excludes poorest’

Plaid AM Llyr Gruffydd 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 Assembly prepares to debate the Welsh Government’s Childcare Funding Bill today (Tuesday 18th September).

Repeating Plaid Cymru’s intention to vote against the Bill, Llyr Gruffydd AM said, “Plaid Cymru will be voting against the general principles of the Childcare Funding Bill on the basis that we believe in the principle of universal childcare.

“Plaid Cymru’s policy is free childcare, universally available to all 3-4 year olds. The primary purpose of this fully costed policy is to give every child the best possible start in life and to further enable parents to return to the workforce and help raise families out of poverty.”

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.

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.  It is wrong that, under the Welsh Government’s current childcare offer, a child whose parent is not in employment will not be provided with the same early education as a child whose parents are earning up to £200k per year.

“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’. Save the Children has said that they are “concerned that the 30 hours offer is for working parents only as there is limited evidence that this will benefit the poorest children, this does not represent an equitable offer for all children.”

“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.

“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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