BETTER childcare and extended maternity leave are some of the things parents in Huddersfield can look forward to under new Government plans outlined today.
Government minister Dawn Primarolo set out the benefits of a 10-year childcare strategy announced last week to give parents improved support.
The minister, Paymaster General in the Treasury ministerial team and responsible for the plan, told The Examiner: "It is crucial that parents firstly have choices and that those choices support what they want to do by combining work with their responsibilities as parents.
"This strategy will offer Kirklees parents guaranteed access to early years education for three- and four-year-olds, extended hours of childcare through breakfast clubs and after-school clubs and provide better support through holiday schemes.
"It will increase choice and quality and will get to the point where we have a childcare centre in each community which can be accessed by every family."
Financial help with childcare costs through the Working Tax Credit is one of the major areas where parents will benefit, according to Ms Primarolo.
The Government currently offers to pay the first 70% of childcare costs up to a maximum of £150 a week.
Under the new legislation, to be introduced from April 2005, this will be increased to £175 a week and will see the state contributing up to 80% of costs by April 2006.
Paid maternity leave will also be extended to nine months by April 2007 with the aim of increasing it to 12 months by 2011. It is also to be made transferable between mothers and fathers.
Ms Primarolo said: "It is about helping where there is a barrier preventing parents from returning to work.
"We need them and they need to be able to work.
"Costs often deter them and we loose that expertise which is so important for the economy."