NDNA responds to Labour’s pledge of free universal childcare for two to four-year-olds


NDNA has responded to Labour's pledge that its plans for universal childcare will benefit over one million extra children:

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association said: “Labour’s promise of free universal childcare from aged two is an ambitious pledge which would help millions of families across the UK.

“The right help with childcare costs will reduce the financial burden and encourage more parents into work. Research also shows that children who receive high quality early learning will have the best life chances.

“But the current system is not working because it has been is chronically under-funded by successive governments. Until this funding crisis is addressed, plans to increase beyond what has already been promised are overly ambitious.

“Ironically, the reason childcare fees are so high is under-funding for so-called free places. Successive governments have not put in anywhere near enough investment. NDNA’s latest evidence shows that the average nursery in England is underfunded per child per year by £958. Most nurseries offer the current 15 free hours per week, but have to increase fees for paid-for hours just to cover their costs.

“This underfunding has led to endemic low pay within the early years sector and consequently a recruitment crisis, with practitioners abandoning low paid positions for better paid jobs elsewhere in supermarkets, for example.

“Any realistic pledge to increase ‘free’ childcare must be backed up by a fully-costed workforce strategy with a commitment to improve salaries above the National Living Wage and make childcare an attractive career. Nurseries will not be able to meet Labour’s pledge to raise the Minimum Wage to £10 by 2020 unless there is substantial investment to pay for increased payrolls.

“These proposals must also have the full backing of the early years sector, which must be consulted at every step of the way to make sure the plans are deliverable.

“In England alone, the plan to double funded childcare to 30 hours from September is a major concern, with only 44% of nurseries expecting to participate. This pattern is repeated across Wales and Scotland where similar commitments are proposed.

“NDNA has set out its radical new Childcare Passport proposal to all political parties. This would use the online accounts already being set up for Tax Free Childcare to pool all current, complex funding streams into one simple account which parents would manage and use to pay their choice of provider. 

“Our election manifesto calls on the next government to work with us on this plan which, with the right investment, could allow ambitious ‘free’ childcare plans to become a reality.”