Breakfast and after-school clubs for the children of working parents have received an extraPounds 12.5 million from the Government.
The announcement by Cheryl Gillan, junior education and employment minister, came at the launch last week of an employers' group set up to promote child care in London.
The Pounds 12.5m, spread over three years, will go to the Government's Out-of-School scheme. It was launched in 1992 with Pounds 45 million and has exceeded its target of providing 50,000 places by 6,000. The clubs, part-funded by the Government through the training and enterprise councils, are often on school premises and open before and after lessons.
Mrs Gillan said she hoped TECs would provide a further 18,000 child-care places.
Mrs Gillan said the Department for Education and Employment was still assessing the benefit to the labour market of the scheme, but many parents had been able to take up employment knowing their children were in a safe environment.
The minister was speaking at the launch of the Pan London Employers' Child-care Service, which has been set up by eight London TECs to provide advice and support on starting up breakfast and after-school children's clubs in the capital.
The business case for supporting the scheme was clear, Mrs Gillan said. The Government expected the UK labour force to grow by 1.6 million by 2006 and women were expected to account for 1.3 million of that figure. Well over half of mothers with children were already at work, as were two-thirds of mothers with five to nine-year-old children.
"These are figures employers ignore at their peril," said Mrs Gillan.
The employers' case for providing child care was put by Sir John Harvey-Jones, the broadcaster and former ICI chairman . He said: "We still seem to expect that women alone have to choose between career and family. I find it just unacceptable. There would be an abrupt change in society if men were told to take time off to look after the children."
He said he was totally convinced by the business case that it was cheaper for employers to help with child-care costs than to lose trained staff and then have to recruit new employees. Employers' surveys have estimated the cost of recruiting and training a junior manager as being Pounds 6,700.
Leading firms represented at the launch included the Burton Group, Smithkline Beecham, Forte, Virgin Communications, United Distillers, London Underground and IBM.