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Last Updated: Monday, 13 November 2006, 13:22 GMT
Parties promise better childcare
Baby and father
Many parents have problems finding and affording childcare
Two opposition parties have promised improved childcare in Wales as they begin setting out their policies for next year's assembly election.

Plaid Cymru said it would double funding for childcare and help poor families if it won the election.

Conservatives have promised incentives to businesses offering staff childcare and flexible working arrangements.

Access to affordable childcare is likely to be high on all the parties' agendas for the election next May.

Plaid Cymru claims current provision in Wales is expensive and patchy.

Speaking at Y Gorlan Child Care Centre in Abercynon, Plaid Cymru assembly leader Ieuan Wyn Jones said the party would address that by doubling the current 56m budget over four years and targeting help towards those with lowest incomes.

Day after day we hear from parents who would like to work but who, simply because of school times or playgroup times, can't do that
Alun Cairns

He told BBC Wales: "We're promising that we'd increase substantially the number of childcare places that are available.

"Currently there's a great shortage all over Wales - in some areas, it's non-existent, other areas it's patchy and all over Wales it's expensive."

He added high quality childcare had "proven education benefits whilst giving children an early chance to develop important social skills".

The Conservatives would offer business rate relief on a sliding scale to businesses providing childcare, depending on how much childcare and flexible working firms offered, and the size of the firms.

They argue that this would make Wales more competitive and more attractive to families and business.

Conservative AM Alun Cairns told BBC Wales: "We're conscious that a lot of people can't work because of the lack of childcare provision or the lack of flexible working by employers.

"It's about changing the culture. We need to offer something extra to parents and carers in Wales and we need to offer extra to businesses.

"Day after day we hear from parents who would like to work but who, simply because of school times or playgroup times, can't do that because they've got to drop children off and pick them up and there isn't that social infrastructure around.

"We want companies to take a lot of responsibility for that."

Sliding scale

Nick Bourne, leader of the assembly Tories, visited Bright Beginnings nursery in Porthcawl, south Wales, with Alun Cairns to launch his party's ideas on Monday morning.

Mr Cairns said the proposal would promote social responsibility and help people into work.

Mr Bourne said: "We want what is best for families in Wales, for carers, for businesses, and for communities."

On Saturday Welsh Labour Party members approved a series of policy ideas, including placing the aim of eradicating child poverty by 2020 at the heart of all its proposals.

Labour also agreed that it would expand free childcare to include two-year-olds.

The Liberal Democrats said childcare would be amongst a "raft of policies" they would be announcing in a couple of weeks time.

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