Headlines: February 2nd, 1998

Announcing the childcare strategy, Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett said: “Our aim is to ensure that no parent is prevented from taking up work, education or training through lack of affordable, accessible and quality childcare and that children’s personal, social and educational needs are placed at the centre of the Strategy.”He described the main features of the strategy as:

  • new provision for children who are four years old and in full time education
  • a boost in the provision of childcare in Further Education colleges
  • providing training, qualifications and business support for childcare providers
  • carrying out an audit of childcare supply and demand and information services.

The work will be driven forward by a special Childcare Unit to be established within the DfEE.

£300m will be invested in delivering the strategy in 1998/99. £30m will come from the Windfall Fund. This will allow an additional 20,000 places to be made available for children under five. A further £220million will be available from the Lottery’s New Opportunities Fund between 1999 and 2003.

Parents and the child are at the centre of the strategy and effort will be focused on ensuring that parents, particularly women, are able to take up training, education and re-enter the world of work. Partners in the strategy include formal and informal childcare providers, the private and the voluntary sectors and employers. A consultation document on the DfEE plans describing how they propose to work with all partners is due to be published shortly.

David Blunkett quoted successful childcare projects and said: “We will learn from examples of good practice which already exist. Thanet Healthcare NHS Trust has established a childminding network to provide a service for pre-school children which is capable of meeting the needs of their shiftworkers, round- the-clock , 365 days a year. Another excellent example is the Lighthouse Supplementary School in Southwark which offers places for children (the majority of whom are from ethnic minority backgrounds and with lone parent families) and has linked childcare to educational activities, especially tutoring in English and Maths in addition to quality play activities.”

An evaluation report on schemes operating in 1995 has shown that 80% have survived through to the end of 1997 and over 60% are financially viable.