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Labour promises extra help for working parents
THE parents of 25,000 children across the region - who are juggling work and costly childcare - will get extra help, Labour vowed yesterday (Monday, September 23).
Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, pledged to extend free childcare for three and four-year-olds from the current 15 hours each week to 25 hours.
The policy – funded by hiking the levy on High Street banks – will help families where both parents work and single working parents.
Labour released official figures showing 19,805 chidren in the North-East and 5,963 in North Yorkshire would benefit from the plan, to be introduced if Ed Miliband wins the 2015 general election.
Mr Balls told Labour’s conference, in Brighton: “For many families, high childcare costs mean that it doesn't even add up to go to work. So to make work pay for families, we must act.
“For the first time, parents will be able to work part-time without having to worry about the cost of childcare.
“Making work pay, tackling the cost of living crisis, a radical transformation in the provision of childcare in our country.”
Labour said parents receiving just 15 hours free childcare – typically, three hours a day – found it near-impossible to juggle work and picking up their children.
Extending the offer to the equivalent of five hours each day would make it financially worthwhile for them to go to work.
The cost of childcare is rocketing up the political agenda, with all parties scrambling to convince working parents that they are on their side.
The Liberal Democrats have concentrated help on two-year-olds, pledging that nearly half will enjoy 15 hours of free childcare from next September.
Nick Clegg blocked the Conservatives’ attempt to relax child-to-staff ratios – to cut costs – but a plan to offer more generous tax breaks from 2015 survives.
Yesterday, Labour insisted its 25-hour plan – costing up to £800m - could be afforded, because George Osborne has allowed the sum collected by the bank levy to plummet.
The levy was intended to raise £2.5bn a year, but raised only between £1.6bn and £1.8bn in each of the last two financial years, the party said.
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