The Lib Dems have pledged to offer 35 hours of free childcare for 48 weeks of the year to working parents from nine months onwards.
The Lib Dems have pledged to give working parents access to up to 35 hours of free childcare per week from nine months onwards.
The aim is to close the gap between the end of paid parental leave and the start of free childcare provision. They say they will provide every child aged two to four with 35 hours of free childcare for 48 weeks of the year, but for working parents they would extend this to children aged between nine and 24 months. Although maternity leave can be up to one year, statutory maternity pay is paid for nine months.
Lib Dems leader Jo Swinson said: “For so many people, the cost of childcare simply makes returning to work impossible. This hurts our economy and deprives our workforce of a vital pool of talent.
“The choice for parents now is simply not good enough. That is why Liberal Democrats are proposing a transformational change to our economy, by providing working parents with free childcare from when their child is nine months old.
“This will close the gap between the end of paid parental leave and the start of free childcare provision. It will finally give parents more choice about when they return to work and unlock their untapped potential for our economy.”
The party estimates the plan would cost £14.6 billion a year, which it says would be funded by reversing cuts to corporation tax and increasing capital gains tax.
Labour has promised to offer 30 hours per week of free care to all children aged between two and four and to open a Sure Start children’s centre in every community, totalling 1,000. Labour set up the Sure Start scheme when it was in power and many centres, which offer childcare and advice and support to parents, have closed in the last nine years.
Under current legislation, parents of children aged three to four can claim 15 hours of free registered childcare during term time, which is doubled for eligible couples where both parents work.