The Government want parents to be able to access affordable child care so that they can afford to work while knowing their child is in a safe and stimulating environment. The Department for Culture Media and Sport provides grants to those wishing to set up a new child care business and the Department for Education is increasing child care provision by: simplifying the rules so nurseries can expand more easily; enabling good and outstanding childminders to access Government funding for early years places to make care cheaper for parents; and legislating to create childminder agencies to give parents and childminders more choice.
As I understand it, there are 500 more after-school clubs than there were at the time of the last election, which is a 5% increase over the past couple of years. The Department for Education is working extremely closely with schools to encourage the increase of breakfast clubs, wraparound care and after-school clubs as they make it far easier for a large number of parents to work while their children are in a safe and protected environment.
As a working mother under the previous Government, I was painfully aware of how child care costs became the most expensive in Europe. Does the Minister agree that the Government’s introduction of tax-free child care really helps working parents get the affordable quality child care they need?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is not the only thing the Government have done to ensure that child care is affordable. By increasing the number of hours of free Government-funded child care to which three and four-year olds are entitled, parents are saving nearly £400 a year more. Furthermore, by introducing extra free child care for disadvantaged two-year-olds, parents save £2,400 a year, which makes a significant difference to the families of some of the most deprived young children.
I am very grateful to you, Mr Speaker. Since the last election, the cost of nursery places has risen five times faster than pay, and there are 35,000 fewer child care places. Given that so many women are forced out of work because of unaffordable child care, will the Minister back our plans to provide 25 hours of child care for all three and four-year-olds of working parents?
I do not recognise the figures highlighted by the hon. Lady. The latest figures from the Department for Education show that there are 100,000 more child care places. According to the latest figures, there were 2 million child care places in 2011, which was a 5% increase on 2009, so the number of child care places has increased. As the mother of two young children, I totally appreciate that the cost of child care can be an excessive burden on families. However, the Government have done a lot to offer support and are doing more with the offer of tax-free child care from next year, which will make a significant difference to the amount that parents have to pay for their child care.
I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts:
Mesothelioma Act 2014
Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014
European Union (Approvals) Act 2014
Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014
Hertfordshire County Council (Filming on Highways) Act 2014.