Former Cabinet Minister Says Grandparents Should Get Extra Support To Help With Childcare
Andrea Leadsom, pictured in September 2022 (Alamy)
Childcare policy should see grandparents being given help to "take on caring responsibilities", a former Cabinet minister has said, as she welcomed £300m of investment in early years centres.
“Flexible budgets” for parents to use when they return to work was also among the ideas Andrea Leadsom told PoliticsHome she would support, as she marked the roll out of the government’s new Family Hubs today.
Rishi Sunak unveiled the funding for a network of 75 Family Hubs across England earlier today, with the intention of them being a ‘one stop shop’ for families to find support, helping from birth until children reach the age of 19.
Leadsom, who has advised the government on early years policy and has championed the new hubs scheme, offered her opinion on what should be done to help parents.
“With regards to childcare, I think that we need maximum flexibility for parents' decisions about their own childcare needs,” she said.
“I would like to see flexible budgets for parents to be able to use when they need to go back to work.
“I'd also like to see more informal childcare supported, so that when grandparents take on caring responsibilities, they can be helped to do so. I'd love to see a real huge surge in childminding because quite often for very young children a home setting is the right answer.
“But as I say, those are my personal opinions and I’m not advising the government formally on that.”
Parents and carers will be able to access guidance from health visitors and other professionals on topics such as breastfeeding, safeguarding, and mental health.
Speaking following a visit to a hub in Cornwall with the Prime Minister this morning, former business secretary Leadsom said they “will provide crucial joined up support to give every baby the best start for life”.
“We are going to see a radical transformation in the amount of support and advice that families receive at that critical early period,” she told PoliticsHome.
“And that will help a generation of babies to be better nurtured to have their needs met and supported and to be more school ready.”
She previously told this website that giving families the best start will be a “major, major battleground issue” ahead of the next election.
“We have a problem with younger voters, we have a problem with particularly young female voters,” she explained, and said she wants “every Conservative to have on their pledge cards ‘we have delivered the best start for life programme’” the next time the country goes to the polls.
Rishi Sunak is coming under increasing pressure to act on childcare, an area that his own backbenchers have described as “expensive” and “complex”.
Childcare is regularly raised as an issue by MPs on both sides of the Commons, citing concerns about the cost. It is believed that making it more financially accessible would help parents and carers to continue working.
PoliticsHome has previously reported that one Tory backbencher is calling for ministers and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to take action as soon as next month’s Budget.
Siobhan Baillie previously said: “I really want parents to hear the Chancellor talking about childcare at the Spring Budget.”
Baillie, who represents Stroud, said she knows that Hunt "cares about this issue, as does the Prime Minister" and is one of a growing chorus of Tory MPs who believe it will form a key campaign issue at the next election as their party strives to win back younger voters hit by the cost of living crisis.
“There are some positive and practical measures that can and should be done swiftly, particularly to support the hard working childcare sector,” she explained.
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