As parents we put our children first. Yet when it comes to Government investment, children are always last in line. This is why we have one of the most undeveloped childcare systems in the EU, why our pre-school services are so under-funded when compared with other developed countries, and why parents must still pay significant contributions for early years care and education.
Our children deserve a much better start in life and there is much evidence to suggest that if they get this, our economy and society will reap the rewards in the long run. The Social Democrats want to put children first by starting a multi-year programme of investment for children’s services, especially for very young children.
This programme would invest in the child’s early years by ensuring parents have the choice to stay at home in the first precious year of their child’s life through extended paid parental leave arrangements, and more flexible work options for parents. It would also help develop more affordable and higher quality childcare. Furthermore, it would also provide a significant boost to enterprise by giving many parents the choice of returning to work.
The Social Democrats would prioritise the following policies:
Providing funding so that paid parental leave (counting maternity benefit) is extended to 36 weeks and commit to increasing this to 52 weeks over three budgets. We would supplement this with legislation to guarantee flexible work options for parents.
Significantly improving childcare through a range of measures including: