Majority of mothers support Sure Start & warn against cuts

A charity has today published research showing nearly 70 per cent of mums will be less likely to vote for a party that cut free childcare places or tax credits.

A leading childcare charity has today published research showing more than two-thirds of mothers would be less likely to vote for a party that cut free childcare places or tax credits. The news comes in the wake of a cross-party Commons committee’s call for Sure Start to be spared the axe in any public spending cuts, saying it would be “catastrophic” to scale it back, describing Sure Start as “one of the most innovative and ambitious initiatives of the last two decades”.

The survey, by Daycare Trust, also comes amidst a welter of attacks from Tories, the Daily Mail and groups like the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which prompted the setting-up of the “Save our Sure Start” campaign. In January, the Mirror reported shadow skills secretary David Willetts’s warning that “only a few of the 3,197 [Sure Start] centres would survive under David Cameron”.

The Daycare Trust research found that:

• The 12.5 hours free childcare a week that all 3 & 4 year olds are entitled to is the most important childcare policy to mothers; 69% say they would be less likely to vote for a party that reduced or removed the free entitlement

• Closely followed by measures that help parents with the huge financial burden of childcare; a removal or reduction in tax credits would make 67% of mothers less likely to vote for a party that cut them, and a limit or reduction in childcare vouchers would put off 60%

Mothers clearly see the benefits to their children from Sure Start Children’s Centres and the Child Trust Fund, and are protective of these services as a result; 54% and 57% respectively say that any party that failed to protect these initiatives would suffer at the polls

The charity also launched its Childcare Charter, a six point manifesto designed to put the issue of childcare at the heart of the election. It calls on the next government to aim to spend 1% of GDP on early childhood education and care so that all children get the best start in life and extend free places to ensure that all children benefit from early childhood education and care.

It also calls for an extension of parental leave and to make workplaces family friendly, the gaps in provision to be filled and to guarantee extended schools, childcare to be made affordable for all parents and for Sure Start Children’s Centres to be celebrated with the range of services on offer to be extended.

Responding to the findings, Daycare Trust chief executive Alison Garnham said:

Our survey shows that any party hoping for success at this election must prove they are serious about giving families the support they need, and set out a clear commitment to invest in childcare. The fact that these policies are so significant to the mothers we spoke to shows the progress that has been made in recent years, but there is still a long way to go.

“Parents across the country are telling us more needs to be done – that’s why today we are publishing Daycare Trust’s childcare charter, outlining the policies that will make a real difference to families, and asking all parliamentary candidates to give it their backing.

“In the run up to the election, we are hearing speeches and sound-bites from politicians about children and families every day. However, in reality it is firm policy promises on issues such as flexible working; more financial help with childcare, and improved childcare provision that will not only win votes but also really deliver support for families.”

Children, schools and families secretary Ed Balls added:

“As this poll shows the last thing families want is to have vital support taken away from them, especially during difficult economic times. That’s why, as we secure the economic recovery, our election pledges put families and fairness first. We will raise tax credits for families with young children, protect investment in universal Sure Start children’s centres and extend free nursery places to 15 hours a week for all 3 and 4 year olds.

This poll is worrying news for David Cameron and George Osborne, who have pledged to take away from ordinary families, who work hard and play by the rules, the tax credits, child trust funds and children’s centres they rely on. As the election choice becomes clearer, mums and dads who do their best to juggle work and family life will know they would be hit the hardest if the Tories win.”

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