Free Childcare: Costs and Benefits — [Geraint Davies in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:36 am on 19th February 2019.

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Photo of Tracy Brabin Tracy Brabin Shadow Minister (Education) 10:36 am, 19th February 2019

It is an absolute pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. May I begin by saying how apt it is to be discussing childcare and early education this week when many Members and, perhaps more unfairly, the staff who work in this place will have had to organise last minute and probably premium-cost childcare because of the late notice recess cancellation? I am pleased to see the Minister stepping in for the Under-Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi. Perhaps he is not here because he has a childcare problem, or perhaps, as the papers suggest, he is skiing. We wish him well and hope he comes back in one piece.

I want to pay tribute to my hon. Friend Darren Jones, who secured the debate and is a young father himself. I congratulate him on the fantastic news that another baby is on the way. It has been great to hear submissions from parents in all parties who have talked about their own childcare arrangements and how valuable it is in enabling them and their partners to do their jobs and fulfil their potential.

I will summarise some of the excellent contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West had a passionate and humane approach to what childcare is all about: creating happy, fulfilled families so that children can grow up in brilliant homes where they can fulfil their potential while feeling safe and secure. The extra £1,000—£20 a week extra in pay cheques—would bring happiness and flexibility to families. That money is vital for some families, certainly families on the breadline. For them, if a washing machine breaks down, that £20 could mean going to a food bank or not. It is absolutely imperative that we also look at the wider economic situations for some of the poorest families.

The idea of families selling their cars to pay for childcare is distressing. My hon. Friend’s focus on equality and families having to decide who goes part time and who loses out in their career progression was incredibly powerful. I was also interested to hear about Flamingo Chicks and would like to know more if he will meet me. Also, the focus on gender and class is really powerful. We know that the gender pay gap starts at the beginning when a woman has her first child. Women often never recover from that. In the creative industries—my previous career—we see the awards season and more men than ever winning awards, but why is that? Because women have to make a choice about stepping out of their careers. Then it takes forever to try to catch up. Some never catch up and they just step out permanently.