§ 8. Mr. Chisholm
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans she has for the provision of after-school child care.
§ Mrs. Gillian Shephard
The Government are providing £45 million through training and enterprise councils and local enterprise companies over the next three financial years to help employers, schools, parents, local authorities, voluntary organisations and partnerships of all these to create some 50,000 additional out-of-school places for children.
§ Mr. Chisholm
Given that the United Kingdom is bottom of the European child care league, any initiative is welcome, but is the £15 million a year ring-fenced, and is this additional money, or does it come from an already inadequate Department of Employment budget? What proportion will go to Scotland, and why is the money available only for start-up costs when continuing funding is necessary for low-income parents?
§ Mrs. Shephard
I refute the hon. Gentleman's basic premise. He should know that more than 90 per cent. of all three and four-year-olds already receive some kind of day care, and that the statutory school starting age is lower here than in the countries of many of our European counterparts.
This is new money. Scotland will receive 9 per cent. of it, based on the children of primary school age formula. The hon. Gentleman should be a little more welcoming, given the welcome that the project has had from kids club networks, play groups, the Working Mothers Association, the Day Care Trust and so on.
§ Mr. Rowe
Does my right hon. Friend welcome the recent circular from her colleague in the Department of Health making it easier for small providers of child care to avoid some of the bureaucratic burdens piled on them by people such as health and safety inspectors? Will she promise to work closely not only with the Department of Health but with the deregulation unit in the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure that a proper path is trodden between protection of children and the capacity of respectable individuals and voluntary organisations to provide this necessary form of care?
§ Mrs. Shephard
Given the entirely welcome increase in the numbers of child minders and registered day nurseries, I agree with my hon. Friend. The extra guidance from the Department of Health to what are perhaps over-zealous local authorities which might have discouraged the setting up of yet more facilities for young children is entirely to be welcomed.