Labour MP calls for childcare minister across Whitehall departments

By Joe Lepper

| 15 July 2013

Childcare policy should become the joint responsibility of the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), a Labour MP says.

Developing good childcare should be a key aim of Whitehall's business department, an MP says.

Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell believes improvements in childcare can be best achieved if the policy is addressed across government and focuses on education, child development and helping to get parents into work.

She said: “Whilst early years education is vital for child development and early intervention, childcare should be seen by government as an issue for business and a key infrastructure priority to promote growth and get people back to work, linking in with BIS responsibilities for flexible working and shared parental leave.”

Her proposals are for a childcare and early years minister to be appointed with cross-departmental responsibilities reporting to both the DfE and BIS. The minister would also need to work closely with ministers in the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions, says Powell.

She is calling on senior Labour figures to adopt the move if the party wins the next general election.

Powell added: “Support for families should be shaped by what parents need rather than falling between the silos of government. Ensuring good-quality early years education and child development goes hand in hand with getting the quality parents want to have so they feel happy leaving their children to return to work.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, welcomed her suggestion that early years policy needs to be more co-ordinated across government but disagreed that a cross-departmental childcare minister is the solution.

He said: “Switching ultimate responsibility for childcare and early years away from the DfE may cause confusion over childcare priorities and potentially undermine the simple fact that early years provision is primarily about the care and learning of young children rather than a means to allow mothers to go to work or return to the workforce.”

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