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21.05.12

MP calls for childcare refor

Childcare in the UK must be made more affordable, a new report by think tank CentreForum suggests. Research shows that the average family in the UK spends 27% of their income on childcare, which is higher than every country in the world except Switzerland.

Conservative MP Elizabeth Truss, who wrote the report, found problems with quality, price and availability of childcare in theUK. She called for regulation and funding streams to be simplified and childminders to be allowed to care for more children at a time. Current rules meant that there must be one childminder for every three children aged five or younger. Truss believes changing this ratio to one childminder per five children aged five or under would attract higher-paid staff and better quality care. This is the ratio used in Germany and the Netherlands, she says.

The report also recommends creating a local agency or network for childminders to register with, that would take responsibility for inspection of those childminders.

Truss said: “Childcare inBritainremains a major cost to families who often lack access to high quality provision. The coalition government has a great opportunity to simplify the provision of childcare and get better value for money for parents.

“Greater levels of local oversight combined with higher ratios would help attract more quality staff. Well targeted regulatory reform as advocated could boost quality, increase parental choice and reduce the administrative burden on childcare providers.”

Anand Shukla, chief executive of Daycare Trust, agreed that childcare costs are “very high” but did not endorse Truss’s proposals for reform. He said: “We do not believe that there is demand in the childcare sector for the changes being proposed today.”

“In order to really tackle the childcare crisis, the Government must start by reversing the cut to the childcare element of Working Tax Credit last year which has left many low income families £500 a year worse off,” Shukla added.

To view the report, visit www.centreforum.org/assets/pubs/affordable-quality.pdf

Image c. Dave Buchwald

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