Childcare Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 pm on 29th October 2021.

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Photo of Joy Morrissey Joy Morrissey Conservative, Beaconsfield 12:00 pm, 29th October 2021

I congratulate Matt Rodda on bringing this very important issue to the House, and on taking the bold step of trying to tackle inequality and levelling up, which is what this Bill tries to do.

I worked for the Centre for Social Justice for many years and we looked at the issue of early childhood intervention. Those early years are so crucial to a child’s outcome for the rest of their life. This Bill shows that the hon. Gentleman cares deeply about inequality and that he wants to make sure that the gaps in society are filled. I thank him for engaging so conscientiously in this process and for seeking cross-Government support, because this is an issue that affects everyone across the UK and it is one of the most difficult issues to tackle.

I support engaging with several Government Departments, not just the Department for Education. My only caveat for the Bill is that perhaps we need cross-Government engagement instead of an independent review. I would love to engage on this issue on a cross-party basis. We need to talk to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Department for Work and Pensions. Often, really vulnerable families will present to the council rather than their school. They might be too far down the line and it is often a social worker or housing officer at the council who flags up that a child and a family need additional support. How, therefore, do we integrate the approach in all Departments? We need to engage more holistically.

Is there a way in which DWP can ensure that every person on universal credit understands that they qualify for additional childcare if they are at a certain level of work? Oftentimes, if a family are in a vulnerable position and at breaking point, struggling to make ends meet, it is difficult for them to know who to turn to. It might be helpful for all Departments, not just the Department for Education, to be informed about the Government’s childcare offers. Under UC, working parents on a low income may be eligible to receive 80% of their childcare costs. Perhaps not all parents know about that wonderful opportunity.

I am 100% supportive of early intervention for as many children as possible, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances, and I will support the hon. Gentleman however I can. I hope that we can work on a cross-party basis to develop a solution across all Departments. I will be a loud and obnoxious voice as I continue to champion this issue, and I thank him again for raising it.