*** DEBUG END ***

Free childcare not a panacea, says Bishop of Gloucester

06 March 2020

Policy won’t undo damage of benefits changes, says Bishop Treweek

diocese of gloucester

The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, at Messy Church at St George’s, Tuffley, in 2018

The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, at Messy Church at St George’s, Tuffley, in 2018

THE Government’s policy to expand free childcare to two-year-olds will not undo the damage done to poorer families by changes to the benefits system and the introduction of the two-child limit on benefit claims, the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, has said.

In a debate initiated and led by Bishop Treweek in the House of Lords, she asked the Government what analysis it had done of the impact of its benefit changes on children’s future life chances.

“The experiences we have as children — and, in particular, as young children — shape the rest of our lives. A child’s development score at just 22 months can serve as an accurate predictor of educational outcomes at 26 years.”

Despite the widely recognised benefits of early intervention, the Children’s Society believes that local-authority spending on programmes for children and young people has fallen by 49 per cent since the Conservatives came to power in 2010. There have been falls in the number of health visitors and in spending on speech and language therapy, even though children with poorer language skills at three years old are three times more likely to have mental-health problems and twice as likely to become unemployed in adult life.

More free childcare in pre-schools and other childcare settings improved children’s outcomes only if was high quality, and it often did not reach the most needy and at risk families, Bishop Treweek said.

“Simply expanding both entitlement to free childcare for disadvantaged two-year-olds and the number of free hours that older children are entitled to is unlikely to counteract the effect of benefit changes and the two-child limit. To put it simply: incentivising single mothers to work is not a panacea for their child’s development,” she said.

She urged the Government to publish a joined-up early-years strategy as part of its plan to “level up Britain”.

“We are talking about investment in the start of life, which affects the long-term well-being of individuals, families, households, communities, our country, and beyond.”

The Government’s spokeswoman in the Lords, Baroness Berridge, said that the Government sought to achieve a “co-ordinated approach” to early intervention, and that, although widening early education was not a “panacea”, it did support children’s early development.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available


Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)