Plaid Cymru wants to offer an extra year of full-time education for three year olds in Wales. This would help parents with childcare as well as help equalise children’s life chances. The two main problems with childcare are the lack of affordability and availability of childcare for families.
· The Family and Childcare Trust’s Childcare Costs Survey for 2014 found that even part-time childcare costs outstrip the average mortgage in the UK. For a family of two children, the cost for one child in part-time nursery care and one in after school club is £7,549 a year compared to the average UK mortgage of £7,207.
· In Wales in 2014, the following percentages of local authorities reported sufficient childcare for particular groups of children:
o Children aged two and under: 22% (UK average 49%)
o Three and four year olds: 17% (UK average 63%)
o 5-11s: 11% (UK average 33%)
o 12-14s: 6% (UK average 17%)
If done properly, a good childcare system can help tackle the gap between poverty and achievement; it can help to improve the economy, and can help to take families out of poverty. Quality childcare / early years’ education from trained providers can help children’s development.
With Women able to go back to work, this will boost the economy by increasing productivity, with more tax paid in and reduce the burden on the benefit system. This will also help to reduce their own ‘maternity penalty’ through lower wages and skillsets. Thus access to decent childcare provision means that household incomes can increase and poverty can be reduced.
Plaid aims to consult on various funding models, including potential EU funding, and reprioritise existing spending. The recent IPPR report on childcare (back in February 2014) shows the relationship between childcare investment and the tax system (increased tax paid, fewer in-work benefits paid out).
Unfortunately, at present Wales does not have any control over income tax or benefits. This means that there is less incentive for the current Labour in Wales Welsh Government to invest in childcare because there is no direct return in investment.
Now if Wales had shared control over at least income tax then we would benefit directly from this. At present the Treasury has a mechanism whereby it can provide funding for schemes that would save it money and Plaid would look into using this.
Wales should be in the position where free childcare can be extended and the provision of after schools clubs should be more widespread. This would enable our young people to gain exposure to music, the arts and sport and access other aftercare activities in a safe environment, something that would help parents as well.