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Tories accused of failing parents as cost of childcare rises faster than inflation

The Conservatives have been accused of failing parents after figures showed the cost of childcare has risen a third faster than inflation since the party came to power in 2010.

Analysis by the Labour Party found the price of a part-time nursery place has jumped from £82 per week in 2010 to £146 now, leaving families paying more than £5,500 a year for part-time care during term time – an increase of £2,400 since 2010.

The analysis compared annual data on the cost of childcare places by the Coram charity with Office for National Statistics (ONS) inflation data.

Labour has also claimed families face higher costs from April after some nurseries warned inflation and rising staff pay meant they might have to transfer the burden on to parents.

The warnings come after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak admitted there had been “practical issues” in implementing his plan to expand free childcare, a promise made in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s budget last March.

There have been reports the flagship policy, due to start in April, is in jeopardy because of delays in allocating funding, staff shortages and issues with the IT system behind the scheme.

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Mr Hunt said eligible families with children as young as nine months would be able to claim 30 hours of funded childcare a week by 2025.

As part of a staggered rollout of the policy, working parents of two-year-olds would be able to access 15 hours of funded childcare from April, which would then be extended to working parents of all children older than nine months from September.

From September 2025, working parents of children under five would then be entitled to 30 hours of funded childcare per week.

But doubts have been raised about the feasibility of the plans after nurseries said they have not yet been informed about how much they will be paid for each of the places on offer, with The Times reporting many have warned parents they will not be able to immediately honour the government’s pledge.

There are also doubts about the extension due in September because of a lack of nursery staff.

On Sunday, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan admitted the government “can’t guarantee” that everyone eligible for 15 hours free childcare from September this year will be able to get a place.

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‘Confident on new childcare offer’

She told Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: “What I will say is we are working to make sure that that offer, which I know parents are absolutely desperate for and I know our government is the only government that is determined to deliver it, but to make sure that we can deliver it. I’ve delivered many things here in my career.”

Ms Keegan’s opposite number, Bridget Phillipson, said families were “forking out thousands of pounds for childcare, all the while being sold a shoddy plan by a Conservative government that hasn’t the first clue of how to deliver it”.

“Families deserve so much better, which is why Labour has commissioned a full, expert-led early years review to examine how we expand access to the flexible childcare that meets families’ needs without breaking their finances,” she said.

In October, Labour announced Sir David Bell, former permanent secretary at the Department for Education and former chief inspector of schools, would lead a review for the party into early years.

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David Johnston, minister for children, families and wellbeing, stated Labour had “no plan for childcare”.

“They can’t tell parents what they’d do differently because they don’t have a plan. In Labour-run Wales, childcare funding has been cut for hard-working parents, while in England this Government is on course to double the amount it spends on childcare,” he said.

“Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives have a plan for childcare, rolling out the latest and largest ever expansion in free childcare in England’s history, set to save working families up to £6,500 per year.”

Sky News Source