Luke Charters, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for York Outer, on York’s ‘Nursery Crisis’

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Choosing a nursery for your child is a nerve-wracking experience for any parent, and any parent’s wallet. Not only are you looking for a nurturing environment where your little one will thrive, you are also spending a considerable amount of your wages on the fees. For most it means a serious dent in their income, so today’s announcement that a Labour government would create 100,000 new nursery places will be welcome news to many.

Last year, when it came to putting our son into nursery before my wife returned to work, we looked at lots of options in and around York. We finally settled on one we were really happy with. The stressful day arrived, my wife went back to work, full of nerves but looking forward to her first lunchbreak undisturbed by a toddler. Unfortunately, instead the day was disturbed by us being pulled aside to be told, “I’m sorry, the nursery’s closing. You’re going to have to find somewhere else.” There were not enough staff, cost pressures, the lease was running out; the combination of these different strains on the business meant that it was closing. For us, it was a minor catastrophe, a mad scramble to look around and find last-minute care. But what happened to us, or some version of it, is being experienced by parents up and down the country. The lack of childcare provision is a nationwide issue as parents try to take up the government’s promised free childcare only to be told the same story.

Like many parents, we found there is a fundamental lack of childcare provision in York. Many York nurseries have a year-long waiting list, many want children who can attend full-time, many do not really want to give part-time places. Stories abound of couples signing up for places before babies are even born. It’s forcing people to work part-time, it’s putting the burden on to grandparents, and it’s hurting the economy.

This week Labour set out a plan for near-universal provision, available from the end of parental leave to the end of primary school. We would do this in part by setting up more than 3,300 new nurseries in existing primary schools in England and in consultation with local Councils. The current sticking plaster solution of funding without provision does not work; we need bold action to create actual nursery places for children.

This is the change York’s parents are crying out for.

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