A Better Start in Life for Every Child

23 Sep 2023

A child’s first few months are crucial for their development. Studies show that children from poorer backgrounds are already months behind their classmates on their first day of school.

So early years education is the best possible investment we can make in the future.

It matters for parents too. Well-paid parental leave helps parents to spend more time with their kids. Affordable and flexible childcare gives parents choice over their lives. It helps them to return to work if and when they want to, and it fights against the huge gender pay gap.

Liberal Democrats have long been fighting for a fair deal for families. We increased the number of free hours when we were in government and proposed a substantial, well-funded expansion of high-quality childcare in our 2019 manifesto.

Rishi Sunak doesn’t understand what families want. He wants to do childcare on the cheap, cutting ratios and underfunding nurseries by billions. Parents won’t thank him for more free childcare if their local nursery can’t afford to stay open.

So Liberal Democrats will fix the mess he’s created. We will pay childcare providers properly and ensure the most disadvantaged families benefit.

Plus, we’ll revolutionise parental leave, by doubling pay and helping more families, particularly dads, to take more time off to be with their children. 

Our Vision: Transforming Parental Leave and Early Years Education

Today, Liberal Democrat members have backed a new policy developed by our expert working group to transform parental leave and early years education:

Childcare and Early Years Education

  • Re-affirming our long-term commitment to delivering free, full-time childcare for all children from age two and those with working parents from nine months. 
  • Reviewing payment rates for childcare providers to ensure they genuinely reflect the costs of delivering high-quality childcare and early years education. 
  • Investing to close the attainment gap by:
    • Giving disadvantaged children aged two to four with an additional five free hours a week.
    • Tripling the Early Years Pupil Premium to £1,000 per year.
  • Boosting the number of childminders by simplifying regulation whilst retaining high standards.
  • Developing a career strategy for childcare staff, including a comprehensive training program so that most childcare staff working with children aged two to four have a relevant Early Years qualification.

Parental Leave & Support

  • Giving all workers, including self-employed parents, a day-one right to parental leave and pay.
  • Giving all families up to a year of paid parental leave. Each parent will get six weeks of use-it-or-lose-it leave, with 46 weeks of parental leave to share between themselves as they choose.
  • Doubling parental pay (after the initial six weeks) to £350 per week. 
  • Increasing paternity pay to 90% of earnings, with a cap for high-earners. 

Toddler Top-up

  • Introducing a new “toddler top-up”: an enhanced rate of Child Benefit for one-year-olds to give all parents extra support, no matter whether they decide to go back to work straight away or not.

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

  • Providing extra funding for local councils to halve the amount that schools pay towards supporting the costs of a child with additional needs, from £6,000 to £3,000.
  • Introducing a new National Body for SEND to fund support for children with very high needs, helping to end the postcode lottery in SEND provision.
  • Emphasising identifying and supporting children with SEND in the new training programme for early years staff.

Liberal Democrats will provide families with childcare that is flexible, affordable and fair, transform childcare and boost SEND support, to give every child the best possible start in life.




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