Wednesday, 30 January 2013

What has the government got against parents and children?

Changes to tax credits, maternity grants and child benefit this April and next mean that parents with 2 children will face a £1,700 cut in income – that’s about £33 a week.

Then, last week, despite David Cameron’s pre-election promise to “back Sure Start”, it was revealed that more than 400 Sure Start Children’s Centres have closed since 2010.It looks as though many more will close this year as the government’s cuts to local council finance start to bite.

There has already been a 40 per cent cut in the budget to train nursery staff, and more cuts are to come.

Now the government is proposing that the childcare staff:child ratios for two-year-olds be increased from 1:4 to 1:6, while the ratio for under-twos will rise from 1:3 to 1:4 in nurseries. The government’s own experts have said that the plans will threaten the quality of childcare, but not reduce costs or charges.

The government minister has been quoting the arrangements in France with approval. However, France spends proportionately more than the UK on childcare, and female employment is lower than in here. A recent study rated France lower than the UK for affordability, quality and availability of childcare. Further, standards of care in France have caused controversy with “young children often cared for by a rotating cast of characters and institutions within the same day.”

The vast majority of childminders have said that, if ratios were increased, the safety of children in their care would be compromised. They also said they would not charge parents less per hour.

When a similar plan was tried in Holland, it caused costs to rise both to parents and taxpayers – the government bill went up by a third - and quality fell.

It’s not surprising that just about every childcare organisation and expert has spoken out against these proposals.

Make sure you have your say, before it’s too late.