HC Deb 15 March 2001 vol 364 cc727-8W
31. Siobhain McDonagh

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what steps he has taken to increase the supply of childminders. [152581]

Ms Hodge

On 15 June last year, I launched a £4.5 million start-up grant, to help provide up to 39,000 childminder places in 2000–01. The grant, supported by the European Social Fund (ESF), helps people starting out in childminding to meet some of the associated set-up costs. The childcare tax credit element of the Working Families Tax Credit helps more parents to use childminding services as it pays up to 70 per cent. of childminding fees. This has the effect of allowing childminders to use the increase in revenue to invest in their business and, therefore, of encouraging more people into childminding.

Over the next three years, we have given Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships the target of setting up a minimum of 145,000 new childcare places with childminders across England by March 2004, a minimum of 25,000 of which will be in areas of disadvantage. These places will be in addition to those which partnerships would normally expect to create.

To support partnerships in achieving these targets, we are making extensive new investment in increasing the supply of childminding reflecting the Government's determination to reverse the decline in numbers. This includes extending the childminder start-up grant by £17 million over the three years.

We are also helping with infrastructure support for childminding by providing £11.25 million for the creation of 450 childminder networks over the next three years. Networks can encourage people to enter childminding and, by providing support, help to reduce childminder turnover.

Last month I announced a new £3 million project, again supported by ESF moneys, to support new childminder networks in four disadvantaged areas helping teenage mothers stay in full time education and training.