Skip to main content

Child Care

Volume 570: debated on Monday 11 November 2013

8. What steps he is taking to ensure there is sufficient supply of child care places for the 40% most disadvantaged two-year-olds. (900990)

After only one month of the programme being available, local authorities have reported to us that 92,000 two-year-olds have received an early education place. That is well on the way to our ultimate goal. In fact, it is 70% of it, which is a tremendous achievement by the local authorities and child care providers that participated. We are doing more work to make sure that childminders, nurseries and school nurseries are able to offer places for next year’s expansion.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but is it not the case that the latest figures produced by her own Department suggest that the take-up of the offer for two-year-olds has been lower than intended? This is a flagship policy of the Government, so will the Minister confirm whether she is satisfied with the information that she has just given us, or will she try to make the programme work even better?

I think that 92,000 places is a fantastic achievement for local authorities. There are disparities across the country, and we are working with local authorities that are behind. I am pleased to tell the hon. Gentleman that 400 two-year-olds have places in his local area of Tameside. We are doing more to ensure that childminders can offer places. All good and outstanding childminders will be able to offer places from this September.

Many parents want their young children to have home-based child care. What policies does my hon. Friend have to ensure that we can offer places to parents who want that kind of child care?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. Unfortunately, the number of childminders halved under the previous Government. We are determined to see the number increase. We are allowing all good and outstanding childminders to offer early education. We are also enabling the establishment of childminding agencies, which will be a one-stop shop for new childminders who want to join the professions and will enable parents to find the home-based care that they want for their children.

The truth is that under the hon. Lady’s Government, the number of child care places has fallen. As a result, the costs are going up. Families who are already struggling to make ends meet cannot afford to work. When will she get a grip of the child care provision for two-year-olds and older children and tackle the child care crisis that is facing families across the country?

First, I welcome the shadow Minister to her new position and congratulate her on her well deserved promotion. I am delighted to be working with her on this issue. As I have pointed out, we reported today that 92,000 two-year-olds are in early education places. That compares with 20,000 two-year-olds in 2010. This Government have made massive progress.

To make a difference, the additional capacity must be delivered in high-quality settings. Will the Minister discuss with Ofsted the need to ensure that the inspection framework is sufficiently robust to ensure that those providers who want to expand their capacity are challenged to give those from poorer backgrounds the best start in life?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. We are ensuring that those places are delivered by good and outstanding nurseries and childminders. This year, the number of early years teachers entering the programme increased by 25%. Those teachers will have the same standards as primary and secondary school teachers. We are improving the quality of the work force, which will ultimately deliver better early education.