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Labour MP calls for local views on Childcare

With the imminent introduction of a major new government-funded childcare scheme, many parents have struggled to register on the Childcare Choices website. Darren Jones MP is launching a survey for Bristol North West’s parents and childcare providers to share their views and experiences on the scheme, and more generally on local childcare provision. With council children’s service budgets also facing unprecedented pressure, due to government funding cuts, Darren is also keen to hear from those working in this sector.

The new childcare schemes include tax-free childcare, launched in July, as well as 30 hours’ free term time childcare for all three- and four-year-olds, which launches in September.

Alongside the online technical issues, concerns have been raised about the need for parents to earn (on average) £120 per week, that free childcare is term time only and that childcare must be blocked booked. The policy has been criticised as being difficult to navigate for the many parents employed full time, year-round and especially for parents on flexible or zero hours contracts.

Childcare providers have also highlighted their concerns that the funding received from government does not realistically cover the costs of childcare and they are having to recoup costs in other ways or face closure.

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Darren Jones MP asks the government about improving libraries

Darren has written to the government about improving libraries. Turning them into Digital Community Hubs, which give users access to new technology for both research and enjoyment, could improve them for everyone.

Darren wrote:

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whether the Government plans to increase funding for public libraries to enable more libraries to become digital community hubs.

John Glen MP, a minister in that department, replied:

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has provided support for library authorities throughout England to deliver library services that are accessible, modern and meets local needs. This included funding a £2.6 million programme to support the installation or upgrade of wifi in public libraries in England; benefitting around 1,000 libraries, and enabling over 99% of public libraries to offer free wifi. In addition, DCMS financed the £3.9m Libraries: Opportunities for Everyone fund to support innovative library service activity to benefit disadvantaged people and places in England. Around 60% of the successful local authority applicants are using digital means to support delivery of their projects. The Government will continue to encourage local authorities to invest in libraries to ensure that they remain relevant and meet the needs of the community.

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