The average nursery fee across the UK has risen to £5,103 per child this year – with two siblings accounting for over a quarter of the £40,000 average income of two working parents. The figure represents an increase of 5.8% from last year’s £4,832.
The Institute for Public Policy Research, reveals that these fee increases are preventing more than a million women from taking up paid work. They have called for the Government to follow Denmark’s policy of guaranteed entitlement to high-quality childcare, with a cap on fees and subsidies for poorer families.
According to the IPPR, it could be funded by freezing child benefit for 10 years and withdrawing winter fuel allowance and free TV licences from better-off pensioners, which would raise £4.2billion a year.
Childcare minister Elizabeth Truss praised the system in Holland, where rules on the ratio of childminders
to children have been relaxed.
IPPR boss Nick Pearce stated: “We would do better to look to Denmark, which spends only a slightly greater share of its national income on children and families than Britain, but devotes a much greater proportion to parental leave and childcare.”
I truely believe that relaxing ratios would continue the downward spriral of ensuring quality. Quality is a commitment we make to the children we care for and this cannot be taken lightly. With many childcare workers earning the minimum wage – or indeed less when enrolled on childcare apprenticeship schemes – we cannot give the added pressure and responsibility of caring for more children per session. This would not be in any nurseries best interest. so how can we make childcare more affordable?
Well, I can think of many ways –
1) child care is not taxed – (and rightly so) yetchildcare providers (unlike schools) have to pay 20% VAT on all our resources, equipment, – everything – this is a one way street. Allow regulated childcare establishments to claim VAT back on everything we buy. – this 20% saving could go directly towards reduce parents childcare costs andincreasing wages.
2) dont make it so hard for parents who genuinely need help with childcare costs to get it – each year I am faced with parents who get more money staying at home and not working than going to work and paying out for childcare. – perhaps these benefits could go directly to pay for the childcare – in much the way childcare vouchers do – in the past we have had parents who have been in receipt of childcare benefit, yet fall into arrears because they have not used the money to pay for the childcare.
3) Cap childcare costs – sometimes nurseries charge what they can get away with charging instead of what it actually costs to provide the childcare – the private sector is a greatly needed resource – but surely not a way to make your millions – I am definately talking about big chain nurseries here – small nurseries are never going make millionaires!!
4) provide money to settings specifically to drive up wages within the sector – the EYP salary enhancement scheme was great – but everyone needs more recognition in the sector – this would drive up quality and perhaps give childcare practitioners the status they deserve. Childcare is NOT a second chance profession – no one gets into childcare because of the money – its a pure love of the job that drives us – but my goodness – what a responibility!
5) standardise suppliers through county councils or schools to reduce costs of resources – almost like a cooperative – this could be used for art & craft resources, cleaning resources etc – where groups of settings work together to buy in bulk and keep costs down – again this works successfully in chains of nurseries so smaller groups working together should be promoted.
6) reform the way OFSTED works so that it doesnt put the fear of god into providers – often causing them to buy expensive and pointless resources because it will make for a better inspection – If inspecting became an intrinsic part of the way we worked, quality would be higher, childcare better regulated, and overall better outcomes for children.
There is so much more to say – but as I write this on my 15 minute lunch break at 3pm I am sadly running out of time – right now I am going on a bear hunt…….