Pledge to increase pre-school childcare welcomed
Nick Herbert has welcomed the Conservative Party’s manifesto pledge to increase free childcare provision for working families.
The Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Arundel & South Downs visited the Learning Tree in Arundel on Friday (24 April) to discuss the plan and also to express his support for the nursery after he was contacted by a staff member.
The Conservatives have pledged to increase the number of hours of free childcare from 15 hours to 30 hours a week for three and four year olds in households where both parents are working. More than 600,000 extra free childcare places would be created under the £350 million plans, funded by reducing tax relief on pension contributions for people earning more than £150,000 a year.
The support is equivalent to £5,000 a year and will be available to all families where both parents work – even those who work part time. It will start in 2017 and be additional to existing entitlements, including Tax Free Childcare and Universal Credit.
The Government has already increased spending on childcare by £1 billion a year, from £2 billion to £3 billion, and legislated for Tax Free Childcare which will save around 1.9 million working families with children under the age of 12 up to £2,000 per child from this year.
The Learning Tree is a pre-school providing childcare for 150 local families, but is facing an uncertain future in its Arundel premises.
Carolyn Henton, owner and manager of the nursery, opened the Learning Tree in Surrey Street in 2009 in the premises of the Arundel Youth Club. The demand for childcare has risen, especially where both parents work, and the number of children she now has on the register has increased significantly. However, issues over sharing space with the Youth Club have not been resolved.
Mr Herbert has been supporting local Conservative councillors Paul Dendle and Nigel Peters, Arundel Town Council and West Sussex County Council as they try to find a solution that will enable the Learning Tree to continue.
The Mayor of Arundel, Michael Tu, has said that the Town Council is committed to supporting the needs and requirements of the community and is currently working with the County Council to find premises for the Learning Tree to ensure continuity of child care in Arundel.
Carolyn Henton said: “I would like to thank Nick for taking the time to visit the Learning Tree Preschool last week and for understanding the need for child provision within Arundel. I think the offer of the Free Entitlement increasing to 30 hours a week for children aged 3 and above would definitely benefit working families who have to spend a considerable amount of their earnings on childcare.
"Arundel does need to be able to provide this statutory requirement, in order to give the little ones a good start in life before they start school.”
Nick Herbert said: “Many parents want to go back to work, or work more hours, but can’t afford to because of the cost of childcare. Our pledge of 30 hours of free childcare is designed to help them in the choices they make.
“It was a pleasure to visit the Learning Tree which is a brilliant example of a really popular and important service for hard working local parents, and it’s important that it stays in Arundel. I will do everything I can to encourage a solution so that the nursery is able to continue.”
Paul Dendle, Conservative district council candidate for the Arundel & Walberton ward on Arun District Council, said: “I have been working hard with the Learning Tree, Town Council and West Sussex County Council to try and solve this difficult dispute, having chaired last year’s crisis meeting which averted the imminent closure. I welcome Nick's intervention and hope a speedy solution will be found. Childcare for working families is not a luxury but a necessity, so the Conservatives’ election pledge to fund extra free provision is good news.”
1. Photograph 1 attached – Nick Herbert with (left) Tracey Baker, deputy manager and (right) Carolyn Henton, owner and manager of The Learning Tree nursery.