‘Plan puts return to work before children’

Measures in the government’s 10-year child care strategy, published
as part of the chancellor’s pre-budget report, are more about
getting parents into work than child development, a leading
think-tank claimed last week.

Kate Stanley, head of social policy at the Institute for Public
Policy Research, said that it had been widely expected that the
strategy would include nursery places for two-year-olds but instead
the number of hours of free child care for three and four year olds
had been increased.

By 2010, all three and four year olds will get 15 hours per week
free child care for 38 weeks per year by 2010, up from the current
provision of 12.5 hours per week for 33 weeks each year.

Stanley said that, by issuing extra hours, the government was
giving parents more opportunity to get jobs. But research suggests
that the most important time in most children’s development is at
around two years old, which could be stimulated by good quality
part-time child care.

“The focus is slightly more on how can you get more parents into
work rather than getting better outcomes for children,” she said.

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