22/05/2017 10:30 BST | Updated 22/05/2017 10:30 BST

Childcare Funding: Imagine If You Could Just Pay Your Money And Take Your Choice?

For nearly 30 years now, governments in the UK have been helping families to pay for childcare.

There are two very good reasons for this: many pieces of research show the educational and social benefits for children who attend high quality nurseries and it supports parents with very young children back into work.

There have been plenty of worthwhile ideas - I can count at least 19 different schemes since 1989 - but this legacy means we now have a really complicated system which is confusing for both providers and parents.

The General Election is a great chance for all parties to work together and to think again.

National Day Nurseries Association is proposing a new way to do things.

This week we've launched our five-step election manifesto towards affordable, high-quality and flexible childcare for everyone.

Central to this is our proposal for a Childcare Passport. Here's a short, animated film to explain it - please watch and share!

The Childcare Passport would be a radical new system to put all streams of funding for each child into one online account, which parents control.

There are no two ways about it. Current funding is inadequate. And the way money reaches nurseries, via local councils, is inefficient and very complex.

This is because there are four main funding streams - employer-supported childcare vouchers, Tax-Free Childcare being introduced this year, free early years entitlement (15 hours doubling to 30 hours from September in England) and any help via tax credits or universal credit - all accessed in different ways.

Putting all these sources of help in one place - the Childcare Passport - would mean parents hold the purse strings and could pay their choice of childcare provider directly. This makes things much simpler for them and allows more money to reach nursery frontlines. It would be a special account which could only be spend on childcare.

It would reduce costly and time-consuming administration for nurseries which means their staff can spend more quality time with the children.

Developing this new, family-centred system, building on the planned Tax-Free Childcare accounts which are already being created, would sweep away layers of bureaucracy.

The majority of my blog posts talk about underfunding of nurseries and we believe that Childcare Passport would do a lot to ease this situation.

With the right investment to cover the true cost of high-quality childcare, the passport could help to offset longstanding underfunding of nursery places by successive governments, which has not kept pace with inflation and rising wages.

So it's time for a change of mindset which puts families at the heart of all this, rather than the traditional approach that requires families to fit in with government initiatives.

A cross-departmental taskforce with representation from Scotland and Wales including HMRC, DWP and the Department for Education could be established to deliver the passport.

It's crucial that, before and after the election, any pledge on childcare, current or future, is properly costed and devised in close consultation with the sector.

Joining with Pre-school Learning Alliance and Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years, we sent this joint letter to all political parties calling for any future pledge to be well thought out and developed in consultation with the sector - and not just a race to see who could promise the most.

NDNA is urging the new government to make plans that support sustainable, quality childcare; delivered by fairly rewarded practitioners who can see a long term future in their profession. Plans that include the Childcare Passport.