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Childcare Commission to be launched by Coalition

Article By: Richard Howard, News Editor

Prime Minister David Cameron has today confirmed the setting up of a commission on childcare, to be led by education minister Sarah Teather and work and pensions minister Maria Miller.

The aim of the commission will be to find ways of reducing the overall cost of childcare that parents face, together with increasing the flexibility of available services through after-school clubs and holiday schemes, and the number of available free nursery places. More details are to be revealed by the Department for Education later sometime this week, but for now the childcare sector has reacted positively to the announcement.

Chief executive of national childcare charity the Daycare Trust Anand Shukla comments: “Families will be pleased to see that the government intends to look at ways of reducing their childcare bill. Daycare Trust welcomes the establishment of the national childcare commission and we look forward to working with government on this very important issue. The government has rightly declared its ambition for the UK to be the most family-friendly country in Europe, and affordable childcare lies at the heart of this ambition.

“We are particularly pleased to see the government recognising the childcare needs of parents with school age children and those who work outside of standard office hours of 9am-5pm, which Daycare Trust has long campaigned for. In a changing economy, it is vital that families are able to access high quality, local and affordable childcare at the times they need it, and schools should play a part in this.”

Although moving forwards Mr Shukla is keen to see that a reduction in regulation does not become part of the commission’s plans: “Any measures that reduce the cost of childcare to parents are of course to be welcomed, and we welcome any moves to reduce unnecessary burdens upon childcare providers. However, we would caution against the notion that reducing regulation will automatically reduce childcare costs. This just isn’t the case. There are many countries which have the same or higher levels of childcare regulation than the UK, yet the price of childcare is lower. High childcare costs are not simply about the removal of regulations – many of which are necessary to ensure high quality and safety."

The managing director of childcare voucher supplier Sodexo Motivation Solutions, Iain McMath, also welcomed the announcement but points out that parents should do all they can to make sure they are receiving all the available help already on offer.

“David Cameron’s call to launch a review on childcare and child-minding, while long overdue, is one which should be applauded. There is very little which is more important for our working parents than the quality and cost of childcare.

"Reform of this nature is always welcome yet what we mustn’t forget is that there is existing help for working parents. Childcare vouchers, a salary sacrifice scheme offered through an employer, provide an excellent way of helping struggling parents with the cost of childcare.

"Unfortunately Childcare vouchers are not always well known or understood. Therefore the government could be doing more to publicise this existing benefit rather than introducing new schemes.

"Employers, have a critical role to play. Indeed, HR departments should not be waiting for their staff to demand childcare vouchers but proactively take steps to implement a scheme and publicise it to their staff. No matter how much red-tape the government cuts, the existing help for working parents is solid and can make a real difference to working parents.

"Furthermore employers should seriously consider flexible working schemes to help the parents on their payroll. Being able to make the school run or working from home during term breaks can make the burden of childcare and its ever increasing cost much easier to bear.”

Image: Education Minister Sarah Teather; courtesy of Liberal Democrats’ photostream


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