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The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"The aim is to target the most deprived areas"
 real 56k

Lucy Lloyd, Daycare Trust
"We are still nowhere near filling the gap fully"
 real 28k

Monday, 9 October, 2000, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Huge boost for childcare
children in nursery
Affordable childcare will help parents to work, say ministers
The government has pledged to create an extra 600,000 childcare places as part of a campaign to encourage more lone parents back to work.

The extra places are due to come on stream by 2004 and will be backed up with increased funding for out-of-school clubs and childminders.

Chancellor Gordon Brown said the investment was part of a policy to encourage seven out of 10 lone parents to return to work or undertake training.

He said it would help parents to move "from welfare to work" and out of poverty.

Employment minister Margaret Hodge
Margaret Hodge: "A childcare revolution"
"We want to give lone parents real choices, enable them to move from welfare to work and get them and their children off benefits and out of poverty," he said.

"This government is on the side of working mothers and working families, helping them to combine paid work with the vital job of bringing up children."

Employment minister Margaret Hodge said the extra money would mean a "childcare revolution" for families.

"Never before has a government attempted to deliver so many new childcare places," she said.

Ms Hodge denied the government was forcing lone parents to work.

"We are not forcing anybody to go out to work. What we are doing is to encourage choice."

Lone parents with children aged five years will be required to speak to benefit officials about taking part in the scheme. Those with younger children will be allowed to volunteer to take part.

Funding for out-of-school clubs will increase from 66m to 200m by 2004 while 19,000 grants will be awarded in each of the next two years to help childminders to come on stream.

Criticism

However, a spokesman for the Conservative Party criticised the policy.

"Our policy is to expect mothers with children of secondary age to be actively seeking work.


We need to make sure the standards in the new places are the highest possible standards

Colette Kelleher, Daycare Trust
"At the same time, we believe that the government should stand back and allow parents with younger children to decide whether and when to resume work."

Colette Kelleher, from the childcare charity Daycare Trust, said it was important the extra places were of a high quality.

"We need to make sure the standards in the new places are the highest possible standards and we need to make sure parents can afford to pay for those places once they become available."

According to the government, 400,000 childcare places have been created since its national childcare strategy began in 1997.

But not all aspects of the childcare sector are enjoying such growth.

One government concern is over the falling number of childminders in England.

In July, a campaign was launched to recruit tens of thousands more childminders and playgroup staff.

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See also:

29 Jul 00 | Education
Concern over childcare
18 Jul 00 | CSR
Spending boost for schools
04 Jul 00 | Education
Search for 83,000 child carers
15 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Grants for childminders
06 Jun 00 | Education
Free places for all three year olds
18 May 00 | Education
Chasing pre-school targets
29 Mar 00 | Education
More money to rescue playgroups
25 Jul 00 | Education
Out-of-school activities increase
17 Feb 00 | Education
17m for out-of-school activities
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