Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn is to announce a plan for 30 hours a week of free universal childcare for children aged two to four.
Additional hours will be free for those on the lowest incomes and, for those on the highest incomes, they will be offered for no more than £4 per hour.
Corbyn will also set out Labour’s plans to raise standards of childcare through introducing a two-term plan to shift to a graduate-led workforce. Labour says this will improve the pay and skill levels of childcare staff and drive up standards to improve children’s life chances.
Corbyn will also outline Labour’s plans which it says will simplify the childcare system of vouchers, tax credits, tax-free childcare, extended support for some three and four year olds and targeted support for disadvantaged two year olds through the establishment of a national childcare access portal online.
Corbyn will describe the current Government childcare policy of 30 hours of childcare for three and four year olds as “free in name only”.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, gave the proposal a cautious welcome, saying: “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.”