August 25, 2023

How we’re backing childcare, giving every child the best start in life

Only the Conservatives are taking the actions necessary to give every child the best possible start in life. Families are the beating heart of our society and we are backing you with what you need to thrive and secure a bright future for your children.

Here are some of the initiatives we have developed:


  • Introducing 30 hours’ free childcare per week for children from 9 months old to 4 years old – worth £6,500pa per child. Since 2013, one million disadvantaged two year olds have benefitted from free childcare. And since January 2022, 1.2 million three and four year olds are benefitting from 15 hours of free child care a week for 38 weeks of the year – that’s more than 9 in 10 of children that age getting free care, helping them and their parents.

  • Paying Universal Credit childcare costs up front, and increasing the maximum cost of childcare payable under Universal Credit – allowing more parents to take up work. This is worth £950 for one child and £1,629 for two children.

  • Introducing the Tax-Free Childcare offer. The offer provides £2 for every £8 a parent pays into their Tax-Free Childcare account. Since 2017, this has cut childcare costs per year per child by up to £2,000 and by up to £4,000 for a disabled child.

  • Reforming the childcare market sector to make it more flexible. Minimum staff-to-child ratios have been moved from 1:4 to 1:5 in line with Scotland and international norms.

  • Reforming pay for providers of free childcare, to help meet rising costs and facilitate the expansion of new free hours and improve the quality of childcare provision. This is backed with £204 million next year, increasing to £288 million by 2024-25, with further uplifts in future.

  • Introducing grants for childminders to help with start-up costs, encouraging more people to enter the sector. Worth £600 for individual applicants and £1,200 for people applying via a childminding agency.

  • Rolling out family hubs in 75 local authorities, providing support where it is needed. This will improve access to a wide range of integrated support services for families with children of all ages backed by £81.75 million of investment.

  • Implementing the Early Years Healthy Development Review, better supporting young children in their first 1,001 days. We are encouraging all local authorities to publish a Start for Life offer for families backed by our £500 million package.

  • Investing in early years training with an extra £320 million for better training and development – giving more children world-class support. This is comprised of £170 million for childcare providers and £150 million for training and developing the early years workforce, to give children the best possible support in their formative years.

  • Acting on the new “Start for Life” programme, ensuring that parents’ and carers’ voices are central to the planning and delivery of these services. Backed by £10 million to trial innovative Start for Life workforce models and £10 million to help local authorities publish a clear “Start for Life offer”.


Meanwhile, under Labour:

  • Labour’s “Employer-supported childcare vouchers” failed to support self-employed parents; it was only available for 500,000 families, whereas more than a million families are eligible for the Conservatives’ 30 hour free childcare offer.

  • “Sure Start” centres were found by the National Audit Office to have failed to target the most disadvantaged 30 per cent of communities, despite £885 million spent on them in 2008-9.

    •  ‟[Labour] Ministers agreed to spend an extra £79 million a year on hiring outreach workers… But the NAO found that in the most disadvantaged 30 per cent of communities, staff spent just 38 hours a week on outreach work.”

    • Under Labour, Sure Start centres spent taxpayers’ money on “aromatherapy” lessons with concerns being raised over “variable quality” of services provided.

    • Under Labour, government spending through Sure Start was found to have led to worsening “performance against some health indicators, such as obesity and dental health” for under five year olds.
  • The former Children’s Minister and Shadow Education Secretary admitted they got it wrong on childcare. Former Children’s Minister, Beverley Hughes, said Labour pouring money into tax credits “was probably wrong”.

  • Labour failed to provide high quality childcare, meaning too many children – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds – entered school without basic skills. Children from the poorest fifth of homes were on average 19 months behind children from the richest homes in their use of vocabulary by the age of five.

  • Under Labour, employers lost trust in childcare qualifications. In her review of the early education and childcare workforce, Professor Cathy Nutbrown reported that childcare staff often lacked basic skills. Her review also said too many qualifications left employers confused.

  • Again under Labour, the number of overweight and obese children as young as two to ten year olds increased from 24 per cent to 32 per cent between 1997 and 2005 – denying a third of that age group the strong foundation of a healthy childhood. The number of overweight and obese young children, aged 2 to 10 years old, increased from 24 per cent in 1997 to 32 per cent by 2005. And the number of overweight and obese 11 to 15 year olds grew from 30 per cent to 43 per cent between 1997 and 2004 alone.


Only Conservatives will provide a bright future for your children.