HC Deb 17 March 2003 vol 401 c622
12. Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South)

What role Jobcentre Plus has in ensuring that advice and information on child care is available to parents looking for work. [102956]

The Minister for Work (Mr. Nicholas Brown)

Child care partnership managers are being introduced to all Jobcentre Plus districts from April 2003 to ensure that parents are provided with the advice and information that they need on child care. In Stockton, South, that means that parents moving into work will be able to take advantage of nearly 700 new child care places created in the past three years, providing care for more than 1,100 children in my hon. Friend's constituency.

Ms Taylor

I thank my right hon. Friend for that thoughtful and valuable response, especially his reference to my constituency. Will he comment further about affordability and quality, which are two of the most crucial features that persuade parents that they can leave their children to seek work further away from home? Has any research been conducted to assess the impact of child care provision in terms of the numbers of people getting back to work?

Mr. Nicholas Brown

My hon. Friend is right to raise that issue, and I acknowledge that she is a long-standing campaigner on those issues. This is an important labour market issue—child care must be affordable, which is why the child tax credit, which is available both to employed and self-employed people, pays up to 70 per cent. of eligible child care costs.

Hywel Williams (Caernarfon)

What steps are the Government taking to make child care more accessible in rural areas, where there are particular problems with the provision and accessibility of child care, and where there is certainly not equity of provision?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that matter. There are obviously difficulties with child care provision in rural areas, but he will know that the Government are proposing a substantial expansion in the number of places. We aim to increase help so that it covers 2 million children by 2006. The hon. Gentleman is of course right that that expansion should encompass rural areas as well.