From birth to the age of five or six are accepted as the most important years in a child’s early development.
You might expect that this would be reflected in the structures, support and services available to children and parents in those formative years. You’d be wrong.
Early years support, play groups, child care and pre-school facilities make up a very patchy patchwork of services. Accessing them, where they are available, can be complicated and costly.
Some working parents can spend as much as 40% of their income on childcare. The lack, or absence, of affordable, effective and co-ordinated services and support prevents many people, women in particular, from seeking employment.
The current hit and miss nature of childcare services significantly impacts on the development of many young people at an early age. That disadvantage can stay with them for life.
Working class families, and working-class children are particularly affected.
Securing the future development of children’s cognitive, social and academic abilities cannot, and should not, be left to chance in a social and postcode lottery.
The right to a guaranteed start in life must be available to all. We must make that a legal entitlement.
Only when children’s early education and development is served by a high quality, centrally planned, publicly funded, accessible and flexible childcare system can we say that we are investing in our future.
Only then will parents have the security to remain in work, training or education. Only then can our society and our economy fully realise the benefits of a skilled and confident workforce, secure in the knowledge that future generations are being given the best start in life.