The National Children's Bureau has described the 2014 Budget as 'not that of a government aspiring to make our country the best for children to grow up in'.
Despite the inclusion of new childcare grants which will provide working parents with up to £2,000 per child, NCB chief executive Dr Hilary Emery believes this will provide insufficient without further investment in the quality of childcare provision itself.
"While the NCB welcomes commitments to assist families with the costs of childcare and to extend the pupil premium to early childhood services, we are concerned that the government is again taking a piecemeal approach, failing to put children at the heart of spending decisions," says Dr Emery.
“For childcare to make a difference to the life chances of vulnerable children, it must be good quality. So, it is vital that the early years pupil premium raises the quality of childcare – increasing levels of staff qualifications, securing strong leadership and providing support for children with additional needs.”
All working parents with children under 12 eligible within a year from the scheme’s start, due in autumn 2015.
The expanded annual payment for child care, which will be available to all families earning under £150,000, comes as ministers face pressure to help the rising number of middle class workers being dragged into the 40p tax band.
After a year-long consultation, ministers have now decided to increase the eligible total to £10,000 from the originally planned £6,000, meaning a payment worth £2,000 for each child.
However, Dr Emery added: "The government’s own analysis of its spending decisions shows that children living in the poorest households are disproportionately bearing the brunt of ongoing spending cuts and benefit changes.
"Today’s children suffer from similar or worse levels of poverty and inequality than children did 50 years ago. The Office for Budget Responsibility should publish an independent analysis of the impact of the 2014 Budget – in particular the extended welfare spending cap – on childhood poverty and inequality. We need to ensure that every child is able to fulfil their potential and that government spending decisions do not undermine this goal."