Family Lives response to Miss Elizabeth Truss's new report "More Great Childcare"

“Family Lives welcome efforts to improve the costs and quality of childcare proposed by Elizabeth Truss in the Department for Education’s new report, More Great Childcare: raising quality and giving parents more choice.  However, we have some reservations about the proposals made.   

Whilst we agree that raising the status and quality of the workforce should be a key priority, we are concerned that this comes at the expense of higher staff/child ratios which will limit the extent to which practitioners can have close interaction with children and also relaxations of minimum space requirements which were rightly put in at the recommendation of professionals and a number of influential international reviews to ensure children are not overcrowded in settings. 

Moreover, we are concerned that relaxing regulation and reducing local authority oversight will not help tackle the high cost of childcare for parents, nor ensure that those who need it most will get access to the highest quality provision.   It is very unlikely that reducing minimum regulations will help to drive down the costs of a place for parents, while there is a very real danger that in areas of deprivation, where the government’s own research shows that childcare quality is already lower, this will impact services for children who need it most.  Local authorities have a key role to play in ensuring that parents can access high quality early years education and we do not believe that a separate childcare agency will be cost effective nor meet all parents’ needs – particularly those with disabled children. 

We also have reservations about allowing schools to take on younger children, which will likely put additional financial pressure on struggling nurseries.   Policies introduced in the 1990s which allowed schools to take in rising fives led to a great number of nursery closures – and with the funding of free nursery places 15 hours per week, this is even more likely.    

Finally, we suggest that the system as a whole needs to be re-assessed.  Funding the demand of childcare through direct subsidies to parents is not cost-effective and does not help to bring down the escalating cost of childcare places.  It would be much more effective to look at funding the supply of childcare, not-for-profit models and to think about setting minimum contributory costs for parents along the lines of the system in Quebec which sets costs to parents at $7 dollars per day.”  

Jeremy Todd, Family Lives