The Liberal Democrats have pledged to introduce 15 hours of free childcare every week for all two-year-olds as part of their manifesto commitments ahead of the next general election.
This £800 million proposal is intended to build on the advances made by the party on childcare within the coalition government.
Currently, all three and four-year-olds and two-year-olds from the most disadvantaged homes are eligible for 15 hours' free childcare each week. The Liberal Democrats wish to extend this in order to ensure all youngsters get the best possible start in life.
Most of their plan would be funded by scrapping the Conservatives' intention to introduce a tax break for some married couples.
The party has a long-term aim of extending free childcare to all working parents from the end of parental leave.
An increase in the free childcare offering to the equivalent of 20 hours per week for all eligible families would then be introduced by the party.
However, this initiative would cost more than £2 billion and might not be achieved in one parliament.
Liberal Democrat business minister Jo Swinson said: "Extending free early years education to all two year olds will benefit children and reduce childcare costs for working parents.
"It builds on our record in government where we have expanded free early years education for every three and four year old and provided it for the first time to two year olds from the most hard pressed families."
The Liberal Democrats are keen to differentiate themselves from their Conservative coalition partners in the run-up to the 2015 general election.
Ms Swinson claimed the latest policy announcement shows the party is committed to helping all families, while the Conservatives are only interested in providing assistance for married couples.
Last month, the party announced plans to extend the provision of sex education lessons, which will form part of a 'Curriculum for Life' that will also include financial literacy and citizenship lessons.
Posted by Harriet McGowan