New Clause 1 — Childcare provision

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 8th April 2014.

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Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Conservative, South Northamptonshire 7:00 pm, 8th April 2014

Yes of course I agree. My point was merely that child care comes in all shapes and sizes. My real point is that we should support the choices that families want to make, which are the best choices for them. That is particularly why I am so delighted that the Government have introduced shared parental leave. What more choice could there be for a woman who perhaps is earning more than her husband than to be able to decide to go back to work in the knowledge that he will be doing that critical early part of the child care? That is a huge tribute to the Government and many families will be delighted. It will be life changing for them.

Another area for which the Government deserve a lot of credit is the introduction of the early years professional status, particularly to deal with the quality of child care. I have been told by the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend Mr Timpson—who is Minister for children—that early years professional status will require a great deal of training. It will involve learning about the importance of secure attachment, about how the brain of a baby develops, and about how vital it is for the baby to receive loving, attentive care, whether that care is provided by parents or in a formal setting. As Meg Hillier pointed out, when life at home is devastatingly awful because of domestic violence, bereavement or drug or alcohol misuse, the attachment needs of a baby may be far better met in a formal child care setting than at home. What is really important is choice and good quality.

Another enormous tribute should be paid to the Government for the creation of childminder agencies. I know that that has been a contentious issue, but I believe that children’s centres that adopt childminder agency status can serve as signposts for all families who seek child care. They can provide ongoing professional development for childminders, many of whom have felt unloved and uncared-for over the last few decades—which, along with over-regulation, has been their reason for leaving the business. The agencies can help childminders to understand regulation, to become established, and to provide the top-quality care that they so want to provide.