Plans to reduce price of childcare not received well by critics

Proposals to tackle the high costs of childcare have been laid out by the government, with aims to make services more affordable and more accessible.

A consultation will take place examining whether to increase the number of young children each member of staff can look after at one time, with plans to increase staff-to-child ratios from 1:4 to 1:5, estimated to reduce costs by up to 15%.

There are also plans to boost the childminder market, a more affordable form of childcare, by providing financial support to aspiring childminders and reducing Ofsted inspection of them.

Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘Childcare is an integral part of our economy, and these reforms prove again that this government is on the side of working families. I’m hugely grateful to the thousands of dedicated early years professionals who provide daily care and education to our youngest children, which is why I am determined to support them by giving them greater flexibility in how they run their services.

‘This in turn will support thousands of families across the country, helping to develop children’s skills while also supporting parents into work.’

people sitting on blue carpet

Other measures being considered include reducing Early years Foundation Stage standards for childminders and simplifying the Oftsed registration process to give parents a wider choice of affordable providers.

There are also plans to grow Childminder Agencies (CMAs), as they deal with administrative and regulatory duties, provide parents with more options and drive down costs of care.

£10m has been committed to Maintained Nursery Schools to bolster supplementary funding for 2023-24, as part of a separate consultation on how early years funding is distributed.

Additionally, the government is highlighting the support parents can access through a new £1.2m campaign and through encouraging providers to offer their full range of childcare support.

Almost one million eligible families to Tax-Free Childcare, worth £2,000 per year or £4,000 for children with disabilities, have not accessed this support.

However, these plans have come under fire by leaders in childcare, including Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance. 

He said: ‘It is beyond frustrating that the government is wasting its time consulting on relaxing ratios, rather than just admitting that if we want to have affordable, quality, sustainable care and early education in this country, we need to invest substantially more into the sector than we are doing at the moment.’ 

Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, also criticised the new plans, saying that increasing ratios would give financial benefits to childcare providers and not parents. 

She said:  ‘Parents are in crisis. Almost half of mothers are considering leaving their job due to childcare costs, whilst two thirds say their childcare costs the same or more than their rent or mortgage. We don’t just have a cost of living crisis, we have a cost of working crisis. To fix this problem and to prevent more families falling into poverty, we need smart, decisive action. Parents across the country will feel failed again by this announcement, and a Government that does not understand the challenges they are facing.’

Photo by CDC


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