Thursday, April 25, 2024
HomeLaura PerrinsLaura Perrins: This childcare promise is all smoke and mirrors

Laura Perrins: This childcare promise is all smoke and mirrors


The Conservative childcare policy apart from being anti-child and anti-mother and anti-conservative is also very, very misleading.

Just so we are clear there are a number of conservative thinkers out there who think this policy is nuts.

The providers are not too happy either as they say they are underfunded.

Beware childcare on the cheap. Or indeed any care on the cheap. You only have to look at your local A and E department to see how that will go.

There is no evidence this will increase maternal employment – if this is what floats your boat. There is no evidence it improves outcomes for children. And there is no evidence it will reduce childcare costs for parents – it may even increase them.

But leaving all this aside, what the Conservatives are doing here is quite underhand. I don’t think ‘working parents’ will benefit as much as is being boasted.

This is my knowledge of how the current system works based on my experience of having three children aged five and under.

First and this is a biggie – they don’t tell you this – the free hours only kicks in after the term the child turns 3. So if you child turns 3 in April (like my son) he is not entitled to any free hours until September and so on. A big difference there.

Second, and again they do not tell you this, the current 15 hours and I assume the 30 hours also only applies to the school year not, let’s say, the business year. So if you have a child in private nursery doing more weeks than the school year (which is everyone) the nursery takes your 15 hours over the school year and spreads it out over the business year. The parents are always topping-up even if they just do 15 hours a week.

School nurseries already offer 15 hours to all children (this is the year before reception). So my eldest attended school nursery and my middle will go in September. They count as taking advantage of this ‘free childcare’ (previously it was known as early years education because that is what it was) yet I am not a working mother – problem for the bean counters who know the price of everything and the value of nothing,

Now the big question is will the school offer the extra 15 hours? My guess is not because they will not have the space or ratios or indeed want to. Also it only goes to dual-working parents so it would split the year group. Even if the school were willing to take a funding hit and offer the nursery year at increased hours to all parents many will not take it (I would not put my son in for more than 3 hours a day even if offered by the school).

In addition the Tory pledge that they are offering 30 hours to all 4-year-olds is in my opinion underhand. The vast majority of those children are either in school nursery or reception and the parents pay nothing anyway. Yes, many dual-working families might opt for private nursery with their much longer hours over school nursery but all will then send their child to reception. So the 4-year-olds pledge is misleading.

If you have a child who is 3 or 4 in a private nursery who is doing 4 – 5 days a week full time your childcare bill will be greatly reduced. This is true. Previously you had 15 hours over the school year from the term after your child turned three (NOT the same as ‘all 3-year-olds’) now you have 30 hours subsidised as long as you can prove to the nursery that both parents work (that is not intrusive at all. And you thought the Conservatives were about small state!).

But it is always tempting for the provider to increase the price just a teeny-weeny bit more when you know the purchaser is getting a massive government subsidy.

So good luck with all that.

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