Election 2023: How the Government's pumping up its pitch to parents with two big announcements

The Government is pumping up its pitch to parents with an increase to paid parental leave. 

From July 1, parental leave payments will increase by $51 a week. 

The Government's also backed down on an element of its early childhood education (ECE) policy to get providers across the line with extending 20 hours free care to two-year-olds. 

Hatty Eberlein is 28 weeks pregnant, expecting her little bundle in September.

It's such an exciting time, but at the moment, it's also such an expensive time.

"Especially with the cost of living going up and wanting to eat right as well when you have got a baby and you're breastfeeding. It feels more important to do the right things for your body," she said. 

On Monday, the Government announced it'll try to ease the pressure.

From July 1, the parental leave payments will increase $51 a week to $712.17 before tax, up 7.7 percent to match wage inflation.

"It's amazing for us," said Eberlein. "We just brought our first home so we have got mortgages to worry about and going down to one salary makes a big difference. A little bit more money goes a long way."

Young parents have been identified by Labour as the swing voters they need to return to office in this year's election.

The Government's Budget centrepiece was a $1.2 billion policy to extend the 20 hours free early childhood education to two-year-olds.

But it was blasted as unworkable by ECE providers. 

"We have heard some of the concerns that have been raised loud and clear," said Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

The policy had a requirement for centres to offer enrolments for 20 hours only.

"A number of early childhood education centres have been charging a daily fee rather than an hourly fee and so it hasn't been transparent to parents about how their 20 hours free is being applied," said Hipkins.

On Monday, there was a backdown - that 20 hours only condition was scrapped. 

"It's certainly an improvement on what we received on Budget Day," early childhood centre director Kelly Seaburg said. 

"However, there is still some confusion around what the details of those conditions will be. So it's hard to know yet how workable this will be for the sector."

Seaburg runs an ECE in Auckland's Hillcrest. She said the Government funding doesn't fully cover the costs of providing 20 hours free.

"It makes it difficult for us to actually make the 20 hours programme work. We need to be able to provide hours over and above the 20 hours and cross-subsidise the 20 hours programme."

National said the Government had been "completely out of touch" with the early childhood sector with its finance spokesperson Nicola Willis saying it would be parents paying the price.

"Sadly, this looks like a bit of a half-baked fix to what was a bit of a half-baked policy. It's a backdown but whether or not it actually fixes the problem is yet to be seen."

Willis said the Budget was "falling apart" and the Government seemed more interested in developing slogans than working policies.

The Government is digging in on one condition though - centres must charge by the hour and make fees transparent.

"There has been a lot of conversations with them," said Hipkins. "I think they are not wild about the idea of transparency but I think they can live with that. This was the stumbling block for them."

Seaburg said centres have no issue with transparency.

"But we do question what are the additional transparency requirements the Government is looking for. What do they want? Why they do want it? Beyond what we are already providing."

All this tidying up is happening after the fact.

"There has been ongoing consultation with the ECE sector," said Hipkins.

"We didn't consult with them specifically about the extension of 20 hours free to two-year-olds because obviously it wouldn't be much Budget secret if we were telling everyone about it before."

Budget secrecy prioritised over workability.