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Children: Daycare

Volume 468: debated on Thursday 29 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department is taking to improve access to child care for lone parents who are being encouraged back to work. (164416)

We want to give lone parents the opportunity to plan a better future for themselves and their children and we know that child care availability is of vital importance to lone parents returning to work.

In June 2007 the stock of registered child care stood at over 1.28 million places, which is more than double the 1997 total, and the aim of the Government's national child care strategy for England is that by 2010 there will be a child care place for all children aged between three and 14, between the hours of 8 am to 6 pm each weekday, all year round. By that date there will be over two million sustainable child care places for children up to the age of 14. The strategy is given legislative underpinning by the Childcare Act 2006 which requires local authorities in England and Wales to secure child care to meet the needs of working parents in their areas. The Scottish Executive have committed to extending access to child care that meets the needs of working parents even though the legislative requirements of the Childcare Act do not apply there.

Every Jobcentre Plus district has a child care partnership manager (CPM), with additional resource in new deal plus for lone parent pilot areas. CPMs have a key role to play in helping to improve access to child care and overcome child care barriers to work for unemployed parents and a fundamental part of this is gathering intelligence about the local child care market and customer needs, and using it to ensure that key issues for disadvantaged parents seeking to move into work are addressed within local child care provision.

Action is under way within Jobcentre Plus to ensure that all parents, not just lone parents, are routinely informed about formal child care and its benefits by Jobcentre Plus Advisers and signposted to further help and information, for example, from Children's Information Services.