OH DEAR, OH DEAR AGAIN – I was hoping that at least one of the political parties would think ‘outside the box’   1 comment

However it seems not

I am well known for my comments about the current Government policies and proposals for education and childcare, and in particular early years – which as we all know despite being a coalition party – is really mainly Conservative polices – and governed by the need to save Government money, and increase tax revenue.

 

I have commented in the past that the Labour Party are also too focussed on getting  parents into work – and the idea that somehow childcare is better than being cared for by parents

 

And now today 3rd September 2014 – we have the Lib Dems – saying they will provide free childcare for for all two year olds – and when resources allow, to provide more free hours ….. and to younger children

 

If not read – here is the link Link to BBC News story

 

In my opinion there are three main issues;

Amount of funding from Government – Lack of support for parents who don’t want to use an early years setting – Meeting the needs of all children

 

I guess some readers many think it a little odd that I am commenting against proposals that could technically lead to more work for myself as registered childminder – and for colleagues across all types of early years settings.

However to my colleagues it will not appear odd – and this is because (and it maybe a shock to Government and opposition parties) I (we the early years sector) actually care about the children and their families, and want to provide the best possible start for each child – as appropriate to them. This means that each child and their families needs will be different. We are not talking about parcels that can be moved around for best fit, and efficiency; we are not talking about storage solutions for those boxes; or redesigning so fit the system better…….

 

WE ARE TALKING ABOUT CHILDREN – real live humans – not even mini adults, but children with their own unique development needs.

Amount of funding from Government

It may also surprise Government and opposition parties to know that most  early years setting are not really in childcare just to make money, they are in childcare because they want to improve outcomes for children and support families. Of course they need to cover their costs and even to make a small profit to ensure they are sustainable, but the most important thing is the well -being of the children.

But even the most dedicated early years professional do not have a magic wand to to pay bills that they they just don’t have the money to  pay; to continue to cut cost when there are no more to cut without impacting on the care of the children; to achieve the possible without the funds to do so.

However it should not be a surprise because early years settings have been saying for over a decade that the funding provided by the Government for funded early years education places (and funded has had several names over the years) is simply not enough – and so early years stetting have been subsidising this out of their profits – and in some cases out of owners own pockets.

Early Years settings would love to pay their staff more – and owners would like to be paid for the hundreds of hours they put in every year that are unpaid. However they can’t, if they did they would be bankrupt within weeks – and that would mean closing settings – something that  caring early years  professionals will avoid if at all possible.

Early Years settings would love to be able to give their staff paid time off to undertake further qualifications and CPD – and indeed to pay for those qualifications – but can’t because usually they simply cannot afford to do so – and so many early years staff end up doing qualifications in their own time – and sometimes at their own expense.

 

And all because the Government do not pay enough for funded early years places – shocking but it has been going on FOR YEARS.

The trouble is that every time the Government increases the number of hours funding per child, or lowers the age at which a child can access the funding – the worse it gets and now early years settings are saying – we just can’t do this subsidising any more.

Which means the Lib Dems proposals will worrying to early years settings and possibly if implemented, will be the straw that broke the camels back.

And not just the Lib Dems plans – remember Labour and the Conservatives also want to increase the number of funded hours.

It would be nice to read about proposals that actually considered this aspect of sustainability for early years settings instead of, just expecting more and more from those least able to afford to do so. In other words provide a funding rate that covers the true cost – which is higher than both the current funded rate and the hourly rate charged by early years settings – as neither cover  the true cost, if all the hidden costs paid for by staff and owners were took into consideration.

Lack of support for parents who don’t want to use an early years setting

There seems to be an assumption within political parties that all adults should be in work and indeed would preferred to be in paid employment outside the home. There also seems to be an assumption that all families want a place in an early years setting for their child, and indeed that all children will ‘do better’ in a childcare setting than at home with their parents.

The trouble is this blanket approach is wrong – so wrong – and what is it based on?

Some cherry picked bits of information, a huge amount of assumptions – and a ‘We know better than you’ attitude.

For a start – not all adults want to work and put their children in childcare, and the silly thing is research shows that for most children being at home in their early years is the better option. Many parents would prefer to stay at home with their child but family finances mean they have little or no choice.

From a Government financial point of view, in many cases any income brought in from taxes is wiped out through the benefits given. Some have suggested it would be more cost effective to offer a ‘home carers’ allowance to those who wanted to stay at home and care for their own children (and the same could apply to the care of elderly relatives)

I agree that for families that only have one wage earner – even a small amount per week would make a huge difference, but in my opinion what we need is some of that radical ‘thinking outside the box’ stuff – because we pay out huge amounts of money in different benefits – we also pay out huge amounts in providing the admin side of these benefits, we tax people to give it back to some but not to others – it removes personal choice and traps some in poverty, and generally does not work.

So how about we enable people to stand on their own two feet and make their own choices about if they want to work, or if they want their child to use childcare and so on. I don’t have access to Government financial figures but I have seen enough personal cases to know that some families get too much, some don’t get enough, some get financial  help but not the support they need.

My basic thought  is that people should have the money in their pocket and plan how to cover their own expenses – including where they live, how many children they have and so on. People need to make sensible choices and not expect others to pick up their bills / deal with the aftermath of bad decisions

So it would be nice if we could  stop this Government knows best nonsense – whether that is about 2 yr olds in childcare, 4 yr olds in school, and all the other ‘One Size fits all’ rules and regulations across all aspects of our lives

As I don’t have access to the figures to do the sums – here is a stab in the dark – but maybe a starting point? Of course I really don’t have any idea about such things – I am just ‘waffling’ BUT what I want is for some one (political party / think tank) to think outside the box / to scrap what is not working and come up with a radical vision that works for parents, children – and the country as a whole.

So for my waffling

Scrap early years funding (Shock – horror – but you have to start somewhere) – but instead ensure parents who work can afford to pay for childcare …..

…….. Raising minimum wage to an amount nearer to a living wage – say £9 per hour (this would of course include early years practitioners) I realise that this in itself would put up childcare fees …..

…… so scrap VAT or at least half in first year / then scrap in second year – it costs every day people a lot of money – what people want is support with the cost of living – scrapping VAT would help everyone. Who knows people would  buy more items and boost the economy this way – or they may be save more in pensions and so on. Whatever they do, the individual would have more money in their pocket and more choice about what to spend it on.

 

Massively increase the amount of  child benefit for the First Child Only,  my thinking it is the first child to whom all the costs are attached (equipment / clothes etc) – including parental decisions about if one of them stays at home with the child. If parents want more children then that is their choice and their financial responsibility (By the way I am not against large families – I have four children but did not have more because could not afford more, nor had ability to house more or transport more )

So, I am suggesting   child benefit  for second or subsequence children. are only increased slightly – or even scrapped because if getting sufficient support for first child, the basis are covered – and if people want more than one child, then they should ensure than their family budget (together with the first born child benefit) can support those children

Enable the stay at home parent to transfer as much of  their personal tax allowance as they want / need  to the parent / grandparent that works (has anyone considered the plight of grandparents who work part time to care for grandchildren / or support their children and grandchildren financially?)

Remember this is not a ‘sensible’ plan – just some thoughts with the  sole purpose of turning the box of current ideas upside down – so that some new ideas can be considered. I do not claim to be an expert on such things – I just know the current systems / policies do not work

The benefit system when fist introduced was never intended to do what it does now, so we need a complete rethink – and although I know there would be difficulties moving from one system to another, it is just a case of thinking about how this can be done. So how about it political parties – will you be the one who puts forward proposals for real change?

 

Meeting the needs of all children

There is not a lot more that I can say on this that I have not said before – and that many other academics, parents,  practitioners, membership organisations and experts in the field have already said.

All children are different, all learn and develop in different ways and at different times

 

What we need is choice for parents so that they can choose what is best for them and their child. For some it will be a playgroup, for some a nursery, for some a childminder, for some a maintained nursery class,  – and for some being at home with their parent.

For some children – 15 hours is about right, but for others more hours or less hours would be right .

For parents it is even more complicated – some need mornings, some lunch time, some evenings, some just to cover over lapping shifts, some 7 days a week, some just now and then.

 

It is really impossible to have a one size fits all, or to assume that Government knows best

If parents had real choice in where and when to use to childcare – including the option not to use childcare – then the needs of children would be better met – not prefect as sometimes the needs of parents conflict with the needs of children – but it would be a step in the right direct.

Parents need money in their pockets to spend on the things they need – childcare is just one of those things, for some but not all parents.

Posted September 4, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

One response to “OH DEAR, OH DEAR AGAIN – I was hoping that at least one of the political parties would think ‘outside the box’

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  1. Wow Penny! That’s not so much outside the box as let’s get rid of the box! Brilliant! I couldn’t agree more! Benefits system no longer fit for purpose. Parents need to take back responsibility and deal with consequences of their decisions while being given REAL choices and wherewithal to do it!

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