In the midst of the government’s chaotic handling of Brexit, it is easy to overlook the complete and utter mess the Tories are making on many other fronts.
Nowhere is this truer than in early years’ education. Thanks to the government’s botched approach to funding, many maintained nursery schools face staffing cuts or closure.
This has rightly concerned many people in our community, and I was proud to present petitions in Parliament on their behalf in a bid to secure funding for our local nursery schools beyond 2020.
Yet it’s not only the pressures on nurseries that are jeopardising our children’s potential, but a whole range of problems across early years care.
The first years of a child’s life lay the foundation for their future, and high-quality childcare helps provide the skills they need to thrive. Crucially, it has the biggest impact on children from poorer backgrounds, ensuring they don’t start primary school at a disadvantage. But in our area and across the country, too many children in poverty are missing out on this support.
The disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit means more families are struggling to afford the upfront costs of childcare. Some even face the choice between falling into debt to pay for childcare, or staying out of work altogether. This only makes things more difficult for hard-working families or single parents, who are doing the right thing, and trying to get ahead in life.
These punitive policies will do nothing to reverse the shameful rise in child poverty we have seen under the Tories.
Nor will they help the children most in need access the support that could help give them the best start in life.
Society is already paying the price, as recent evidence suggests almost half of all disadvantaged children start school lacking basic skills such as speaking in full sentences.
Children shouldn’t be falling behind before their lives have even started, and I’ve urged government ministers to do more to tackle this shocking injustice.
Sadly, right now it seems that the Tories’ main concern is clinging onto power, putting the interests of their party over our children’s futures.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The last Labour government almost halved the number of children living in poverty, changing the lives of millions of children and their families for the better.
It is time we learnt these lessons, and created a strategy for this century that really works to tackle avoidable child poverty.
Read this in the Sunderland Echo here.