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Cutting up the Pounds 300m club cake

Childcare campaigners have drawn up a 10-point plan in response to Government pledges to create 30,000 after-school clubs at a cost of Pounds 300 million over the next five years.

The Kids Club Network wants regional task forces to co-ordinate the service. The task forces should include local authority and business representatives, and schools. It also wants to see childcare come under LEA corporate plans, with more money pumped into deprived areas.

In addition, the network urges more training for the estimated 100,000 new childcare workers needed to staff the clubs, a quality assurance scheme, and the greater involvement of schools .

The organisation presented its proposals to David Blunkett, Education and Employment Secretary, last week. He explained how part of the Pounds 300m, which includes Pounds 30m from the privatised utilities' windfall tax fund, will pay for a national audit of childcare supply, demand and information services.

Mr Blunkett said: "Our aim is to ensure that no parent is prevented from taking up work, education or training through lack of affordable, accessible and quality childcare, and that children's personal, social and educational needs are placed at the centre of the strategy."

Earlier this week, Chancellor Gordon Brown confirmed that "affordability" will be a key factor in his March budget. He told delegates at a reception organised by the Daycare Trust of his ambition to ensure childcare would no longer be "an add-on extra, but absolutely integral to economic strategy".

Childcare provision is growing at the rate of some 1,500 clubs a year, with 3,500 in existence. If Government targets are to be met, numbers will have to expand by 5,000 a year, with 10,000 new clubs emerging in the last of the five years, the network claims.

Anne Longfield, director of the network, said that after-school clubs were crucial to families struggling financially. Many parents mistakenly believed that life would become easier once their children were attending school.

"The reality is that it becomes much more difficult because minders do not necessarily want to take children just for a couple of hours after school, and there are also the school holidays to cater for."

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