Childcare and the Family

UKIP believes supporting children and families is a prerequisite for a strong and healthy society. Families are important, in all their diversity, and we want to help create a society in which they thrive and where childcare provision is affordable and accessible for all parents, whatever their socio-economic status.

Good childcare benefits parents, helps child development and supports our economy. UKIP’s vision for childcare is a system where parents, teachers, schools, nurseries, children’s centres, local authorities, childcare providers and businesses all work together to make provision as affordable, flexible, available and as high-quality as possible.

The policies of current and previous governments have been counter- productive in many ways: over-regulation has helped create an acute shortage of places and voucher systems have contributed to pushing up the cost of childcare.

UK childcare costs are now the most expensive in Europe, and among the highest in the world. Costs can be crippling for ordinary families. What is the point of having a childcare system that is so expensive it does not pay to work?

Children from socially deprived backgrounds are adversely affected because their applications for places are most likely to be turned down, especially if parents are unable to pay for ‘top-ups’ such as meals, nappies and so on.

Childcare provision is also complex and fragmented. Several government departments oversee different schemes providing help with childcare costs. Parents may struggle to work out which type of childcare funding system will work best for them. Those on modest incomes who work hard may find they ‘fall through the gaps.’ Parents who are self-employed, agency workers, those on zero-hours contracts or commission are most likely to be affected, as any rise in income may prove punitive, depending on which childcare support scheme has been chosen.

A simpler system, more responsive to families’ changing needs and with integrated sources of funding, must be initiated at the earliest opportunity, alongside proposals to reduce the cost of childcare and increase the number of childcare places, while giving parents more choice.

We will initiate a full review of childcare provision.

While parents should of course make their own enquiries as to the suitability of informal providers, in the same way they would check out a babysitter, we will require informal child carers to satisfy the following criteria to benefit from the voucher scheme: -

  •  They must pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check

  •  They must hold relevant household and public liability insurance

  •  They must not look after more than six children up to the age of eight (including any of their own children), of which a maximum of three can be under fives

A single childminder may only care for one child under one year old. The building from which they operate (unless it is the child’s own home) must be notified to the local authority and be subject to spot checks. This combination of de-regulation, practical solutions and incentives will reduce childcare costs, increase childcare availability and make it easier for parents to find flexible childcare that works around their working hours and lifestyle.

CREATING MORE NURSERY PLACES

UKIP will make consideration of the necessity to include nursery or creche provision an essential part of the planning process for large developments.

We will also amend planning legislation to ensure planning applications for family housing developments of forty homes or more, without dedicated garden space for each unit, will be required to include a communal play area in each scheme.

Planning applications for family housing developments of forty homes or more, without dedicated garden space for each unit, will also be required to include a communal play area in each scheme.

We will also allow office space to be converted to nursery facilities under permitted development rights. We will also ask employers to pool nursery provisions for all families within the local community, where ever possible.

Tackling excessive regulation without compromising child safety is a priority. Nurseries are often small businesses and we would prefer owners to be focused on childcare, rather than drowning in paperwork.

CHILDCARE FOR SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN

For parents of school-age children, extending the school day by offering wrap-around childcare will offer enormous benefits to working parents, for whom it is likely to be by far the most sensible and convenient childcare option.

We will place a statutory duty on all primary schools to offer before and after-school care from 8am to 6pm during term time, with the option to extend this to all-day provision throughout the school holidays.

Sessions will include breakfast and healthy snacks. Sadly, anecdotal evidence suggests significant numbers of teachers are seeing pupils arrive at school hungry.

Schools can choose how they facilitate before and after- school care. They can provide it themselves; partner with external childcare providers; or allow parents to club together. There will be no cost to the school, as parents will pay for the cost of childcare themselves or use the voucher scheme.

EMERGENCY CHILDCARE

Local authorities will be required to keep a register of child care providers willing to offer emergency childcare cover at short notice, during atypical hours, overnight, or at weekends.

This will help families who need to access high quality care during unsocial hours, in an emergency, when they are called to a job interview at short notice, or when they are working away from home, for example.

THE CARE SYSTEM

UKIP will reform the care system so the 68,000 children in care in the UK (including 3,600 under the age of one) can find stability through fostering and adoption in a faster, more efficient way. We will extend the provisions of the Children and Families Act 2014, which gives children in care the choice to stay with their foster families until they turn 21, to children in homes, so they too have the same opportunity.

FATHERS AND FAMILIES

UKIP wants fathers to be more involved in their children’s lives.

To help prevent thousands of fathers losing contact with their children each year when couples break up, UKIP will legislate for an initial presumption of 50-50 shared parenting in child residency matters.

Grandparents will also be given visiting rights, unless it can be shown to the satisfaction of the Family Court that there is a good reason to withhold such rights.

We will also review the Family Court system, with the intention of implementing independent lay oversight of Family Courts, to ensure that necessary confidentiality does not prevent proper scrutiny in this and all areas of Family Law.