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Caring for Young Children, Supporting Families

Childcare costs in the UK are becoming less affordable for ordinary families. The parents of disabled children struggle to find childcare  at all. Fathers are prevented from seeing their children and the  family courts are not transparent enough. Tackling these issues  are key priorities for UKIP.
UKIP’s 2015 general election manifesto highlighted the complexity of childcare provision in the UK and how difficult it can  be to find quality childcare, especially if your child is disabled, if you work irregular hours,  or you are on a low income. Despite an increase in free childcare provision and new tax-free childcare schemes, recent research from the Family and Childcare Trust revealed British parents now pay more than £6,000 per year on average for childcare, double what they spend on food and drink. 
The situation we warned about in 2015 has not improved but got worse. Perverse government policies intended to expand childcare provision fuel childcare demand yet fail to cover costs incurred by childcare providers. At the same  time there is an acute shortage of places  because of over-regulation and higher training fees. Nurseries and childminders limit places, raise fees, or introduce extra charges in order to  remain sustainable. Despite more public money being allocated to free childcare than ever, the number of childminders has plummeted by  10,000 since 2012. 
This is a typical outcome of policy-making done  via a ‘bidding war,’ instead of being thought through. In this case, Labour and the  Conservatives have jockeyed for position  to see who can offer the highest number of  free childcare hours for the youngest children, without considering the unintended consequences, or what else in the system might need to change. 
Caring for Young Children, Supporting Families 
UKIP promised a far-reaching review of childcare provision in 2015, and this is still urgently needed, not least to de-regulate and simplify an increasingly fragmented system. 
Meanwhile, UKIP will allow parents to use their free childcare entitlements to access a greater choice of childcare providers by removing restrictions limiting them only to Ofsted-registered childcare providers. We will also:  
• Extend the primary school day by offering wrap-around childcare from 8am to 6pm during term time
• Require local authorities to keep a register of childcare providers willing to provide emergency childcare cover at short notice
• Amend planning legislation in order to make play spaces compulsory in housing estates, and to promote nursery or crèche provision in developments such as shopping centres, office blocks, hospitals, airports, and  railway stations.
CHILDCARE FOR CHILDREN WITH  SPECIAL NEEDS Smaller early years providers may struggle to offer places to children with physical or learning difficulties because of the extra costs involved in maintaining higher staff ratios, delivering additional staff training, buying specialist equipment and creating accessible changing facilities. This inevitably makes it much more difficult for such children to access the same high quality, flexible early years provision as their ablebodied peers. 
UKIP will create a fund worth £80 million a year to help childminders and smaller childcare providers employing five people or fewer, to open their doors to more children with special needs. Grants of up to £3,000 will be available to adapt their premises to make them more accessible, and 
to equip their staff with specialist training and equipment, so they can provide a more inclusive childcare service. 
KEEPING FAMILIES TOGETHER Our 2015 manifesto promised to legislate for an initial 50-50 presumption of shared parenting when couples break up. We stand by this, as we do our pledge to give visiting rights to grandparents and to review the operation of the Family Court. 
The concerns we raised in 2015 about the Family Court system, particularly in relation to forced adoptions, have become more pressing. Up to 96 per cent of children adopted from public care are forcibly adopted, against their parents’ wishes. No one wants to see children languishing in care, but until the Family Courts are more transparent, we cannot know whether decisions are made in children’s best interests or in response to adoption targets. The latter approach risks serious miscarriages of justice. 
Maintaining confidentiality in family law proceedings is not incompatible with scrutiny. To strike the right balance between the two  we propose: 
• Removing the current blanket ban on media reporting of placement and adoption proceedings and allowing journalists to report on such cases on the same basis as other family law proceedings
• Publishing all case summaries, skeleton arguments, judgements and other documents relating to Family proceedings as a matter of course, on an anonymised basis
• Requiring expert witnesses to list previous court cases in which they have given evidence
• Promoting more extensive use of Special Guardianship Orders so that children can retain links with their birth family.