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Continuity and change in English childcare policy 1960-2000

Lewis, Jane (2013) Continuity and change in English childcare policy 1960-2000. Social Politics, 20 (3). pp. 358-386. ISSN 1072-4745

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Identification Number: 10.1093/sp/jxt013


The failure of the UK to develop a coherent, universal, public system of childcare in the post-war period is well known. More recently, there has been a strong debate as to whether the New Labour Governments' explicit childcare policies, first set out in 1998, represent a substantial change or whether policy continuities are more significant. This paper uses ideas about incremental policy change, together with a close investigation of archival as well as other documentary materials, to investigate the nature of continuity and change over the period 1960–2000. The findings are rather different for early years education and for early years care. While there was support in principle for the former across the political divide, this did not translate into policy action. Early years care, on the other hand, was actively opposed (other than for children “at risk”) largely because of ideas about the importance of maternal care in the 1960s and 1970s, and because of strong political opposition to the idea of childcare as a matter for the state in the 1980s and most of the 1990s. As a result, the mixed economy of childcare was effectively strengthened over the whole period. Nor was this changed by New Labour's intervention in childcare. However, the increasing complexity of the mixed economy of providers resulted in a more united campaign for a national strategy. New Labour's willingness to take responsibility for developing childcare policy and to spend more public money on it was the most important change in the late 1990s.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 The Author
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2013 11:55
Last Modified: 28 May 2024 19:18
Funders: Titmuss Meinhardt Foundation

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