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Labour promises to expand free childcare and open 1,000 Sure Start centres

PARENTS of more than a million children would benefit from the extension of free childcare and 1,000 new Sure Start centres if Labour goes into government, the party pledged yesterday.

Currently, parents of three- to four-year-olds get 15 hours of free childcare a week for 38 weeks of the year.

Under Labour’s plans, free childcare would be extended to 30 hours a week and two-year-old children would be included.

The average parent of a two-year-old would save more than £5,000 a year under these plans.

Parents with children aged three to four, currently only eligible for 15 hours, would save over £2,500 a year, according to analysis by the Commons Library commissioned by Labour.

Labour’s expansion of free childcare will benefit more than 880,000 three- and four-year-olds, and more than 500,000 two-year-olds by the end of the next Parliament.

The move comes as new analysis shows childcare costs have risen twice as fast as wages under the Conservatives.

Every community will have a Sure Start centre established under a £1 billion investment plan to reverse the shutting-down of 1,000 centres in England since the Tories have been in government.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be visiting an early years art project in Leeds today with shadow education secretary Angela Rayner on his pre-election campaign trail.

He said the plans would help “unlock the potential of every child.”

Mr Corbyn added: “The Conservatives are failing a whole generation of children. Labour will deliver the real change Britain needs.”

Ms Rayner said: “Investment in the early years can transform the lives of children and their families across this country, just as the last Labour government transformed mine.

“The Tories have slashed funding for Sure Start, leading to a loss of 1,000 centres, while their so-called free childcare offer locks out those families most in need of support.

“Labour will make high-quality early-years education and access to Sure Start Plus a right for all families, in a country for the many, not the few.”

The restoration of Sure Start centres would be a “lifeline” for parents, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said.

“These proposals, along with an increase in free childcare, would bring long-term benefits far wider than just making life easier for families to go out to work,” he added.

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