Childcare changes to help reduce cost of living ‘not a magic bullet or panacea’, says minister | Political news



An overhaul of childcare rules will be announced this week, aiming to save hundreds of thousands of families money by allowing staff to care for more children.

The government plans to increase the number of two-year-olds who can be cared for by an adult in a nursery from four to five, charged as helping parents to Cost of life.

It is claimed that moving to England alone could potentially save families up to £40 a week – or 15% – for those paying £265 a week for a two-year-old, if childcare providers support it. accept and pass the savings on to the parents.

But the industry says it is highly unlikely that will be the case, and Children’s Minister Will Quince told Sky News that ratio changes alone would not be a ‘quick fix or panacea’. for short-term family finances.

Speaking on a trip to Paris where he visited French crèches which run a higher staff-to-child ratio, the Tory MP sought to reassure parents that childcare providers would not be obliged to adopt the changes.

He said: “If I thought it would compromise safety or quality, I wouldn’t.

“I was being pressured by some inside and outside government to consider a much bolder ratio reform, but I said quality and safety were our priority.”

Childcare in the UK is among the most expensive in Europe, with looking after the youngest children being the most expensive.

Full-time childcare costs an average of £936 a month in the UK, or 48% of the average wage.

In France, where the legal adult-to-child ratio is one to eight for two-year-olds, the average price for full-time childcare is £511, or 26% of the average wage, according to figures published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Childcare in France is heavily subsidized by the state and staff must all be fully qualified, which is not the case in the UK.

Children’s Minister Will Quince says he will not compromise safety or quality

Mr Quince visited a municipal nursery in central Paris to learn more about the system, but insisted the proposed reform in the UK would be much more limited.

Referring to the French ratio, he said: “It would be a step too far for a number of reasons, and what we are proposing and consulting on is actually a considerably smaller and minor change.

“The ratio change itself is not a silver bullet, a panacea or a magic bullet, it’s not going to significantly change the costs, because we don’t expect the metrics to shift steadily or religiously from one at five.

“Most don’t currently go from one to four.

“It’s more about flexibility and it’s important to emphasize that it’s part of a much bigger whole.”

The government has also focused on trying to increase uptake of tax-free childcare, which 1.3million families are eligible for – up to £2,000 a year.

Last year, just 384,000 families – less than a third of those eligible – signed up.

The childcare industry is vehemently opposed to ratio changes, which they say will put staff under pressure and that the costs saved by having more children are unlikely to be passed on due to years of under-staffing. funding.

The proposed changes are more limited than those suggested by Liz Truss when she was childcare minister in 2013 and proposed one adult for every six two-year-olds.

A backlash from nurseries and parents saw the plans scrapped.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, told Sky News he hoped those plans would also be scrapped.

He said: “There is no case for that.

“The problem we have in the early years has nothing to do with the number of employees, it has to do with the fact that the sector was grossly underfunded for decades.

“Furthermore, such a policy would do little, if anything, to reduce costs for parents.

“We know that the vast majority of suppliers plan to keep their ratios as they are, regardless of any regulatory changes, in order to maintain quality levels – and even if a minority relaxed their ratios, any savings would be used to recover years of loss history, not lower fees.”

The nursery industry is fiercely opposed to ratio changes

At Little Ladybirds nursery in north London, headmistress – and former teacher – Fiona Doyle and her two staff look after eight children.

She said she was unlikely to follow the new ratios.

“Whether it’s naps, meals, taking them to the park, someone’s had an accident, one adult for every four kids is a lot,” she said.

“I honestly can’t find a single childcare provider, a single parent, someone who really thinks this is a good idea, it would be an absolute disaster.

“The more children we have, the less time we have to spend on their personalized learning, their development, from all angles, it just doesn’t make sense.”

She said parents paid her the equivalent of £7 an hour for a 10 hour day.

Keilly Swift, whose toddler attends nursery, said the monthly payments are “a huge drain on our finances, although it’s not a particularly expensive nursery”.

But she said: “I don’t think the people looking after my children and giving them the best possible care are more burdened, with more stress and extra workload.

“That doesn’t seem like the right way to cut costs.”

Mr. Quince said Boris Johnson was personally very interested in the issue, as the high costs of childcare prevented women, in particular, from entering the labor market.

He added: “I have spent many occasions over the past ten months meeting with settings and speaking with individual suppliers and those working in the early years have said that a little more flexibility on occasion would actually be helpful.

“Also when I talk to parents and they say ‘Well we need the places and we need to go to work and we want our child to be educated, we don’t want to be disappointed at the last minute and if that means giving settings just that a bit more flexibility around one to five instead of one to four on occasion”.

“It’s a legal cap, a maximum, it’s not a target, it’s not something we want the parameters to aim for.

“It’s about giving these environments the flexibility and autonomy to make the decision of what is appropriate in terms of quality and security for their environment.”

Scotland already has a ratio of one adult to five two-year-olds, but in Wales it is one to four – currently the same as England – and there are no plans to change that.


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