David Cameron and Nick Clegg will put aside talk of greater differentiation between their two parties on Monday, launching a joint programme for the second half of parliament that will include greater help with childcare and for elderly people, and a striking declaration that "their sense of shared purpose has grown over time".
The two leaders will also bind themselves closer together at a joint Downing Street press conference by committing to a range of big structural changes, many of which will not come into force until after the 2015 general election.
The Conservatives and the Lib Dems have already agreed to many spending cuts that take them to common positions post-2015 and one Lib Dem source said the new document was "very proalition".
In a range of proposals designed to show the coalition has not run out of ideas, Cameron and Clegg will set out plans for a flat-rate childcare voucher paid through the tax system, likely to be worth up to £2,000 per child; a cap on the cost of social care; new help with mortgages; and transport investment through road tolls.
There are also fresh plans for a flat-rate pension worth £140 a week, and more proposals to speed up housebuilding, an area in which successive initiatives have failed to prevent record low numbers of house starts.
The aim is to set out details of the new policies in successive weeks leading up to the budget, probably starting with plans for cheaper childcare for those earning between £20,000 and £40,000 a year.
In a joint foreword to "the coalition programme mark 2", the leaders say: "We are dealing with the deficit, rebuilding the economy, reforming welfare and education and supporting hard-working families through tough times. And on all of these key aims, our parties, after 32 months of coalition, remain steadfast and united. Of course there have been some issues on which we have not seen eye to eye, and no doubt there will be more. That is the nature of coalition. But on the things that matter most – the big structural reforms needed to secure our country's long-term future – our resolve and sense of shared purpose have, if anything, grown over time."
Cameron, speaking on the BBC on the eve of the document's launch, said the document would show the coalition with "a full tank of gas", adding "it's full steam ahead".
"Far from running out of ideas, we have got a packed agenda, which concerns things like how do we build roads in Britain to make sure our economy keeps moving, how do we pay for the care for the elderly, how do we have a pension system that encourages saving – big things that are going to equip our country for the next decade."
The flat-rate childcare voucher will be funded through the existing £7bn a year spent through a range of confusing revenue streams on childcare. Means-tested vouchers, free entitlements and childcare tax credits come from separate funding pots at present.
A childcare commission set up by the government and due to report this month is also expected to allow childminders to look after a higher ratio of children. In England, childminders are currently limited to looking after three children under the age of two. In the Netherlands, the ratio is six to one, and France as high as 12 to one. For childminders looking after children under five the ratio is three to one in the UK and in Germany and Ireland that ratio is 5:1.
As a share of GDP, Britain spends twice the OECD average on childcare, which is among the most expensive in Europe, creating disincentives for second earners to work, as almost their entire income is swallowed by the costs of childcare. Liz Truss, the early years minister, also wants to raise the status and pay of the childcare workforce through clearer career paths, as well as allow for new entrants into the market.
In a sign of the problems the government is experiencing with female voters, the shadow equalities minister, Yvette Cooper, produced new figures showing the disproportionate impact government benefit and tax credit reforms are having on working women. Drawing on figures compiled by the House of Commons library, she claims 4.6 million women who receive child tax credit directly would be hit by the government's three squeezes on benefits and tax credits – including 2.5 million working women, and more than 1 million women who are caring for children while their husbands or partners work.
She also claims low-paid new mothers are losing £1,300 during pregnancy and the baby's first year from cuts to maternity pay, pregnancy support and tax credits. They are also losing a further £422 from cuts to child benefit over the same period.
Cameron and Clegg are likely to steer clear of reports that they have decided to cap the cost of social care at £75,000 – more than double the £35,000 limit recommended by Andrew Dilnot, the economist appointed by David Cameron to draw up plans for change in July 2011. The government would foot the £700m bill, and government sources were quoted as saying any lower cap would be too expensive.
The shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, said: "If these reports are true, the government will have fallen far short of a fair solution to the care crisis. A cap on care bills of £75,000 per person, or £150,000 per couple, will not protect the home and life savings of an average family."
He continued to offer all-party talks on the issue, saying "it was disappointing they decided to go it alone with a half-baked alternative. Dilnot's proposed cap of £35,000 would be a significant step towards helping older people protect what they've worked for."
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