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The chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance has expressed his disappointment at the Government’s refusal to release details of its Childcare Commission consultation.
The organisation submitted a Freedom of Information Request on 14 February, asking the Department for Education to provide copies of the 328 written responses to the consultation, which closed in August and examined how to reduce the cost of childcare for working families.
Neil Leitch says the department has refused to publish the requested information because doing so would “breach the formulation and development of Government policy”.
He said: “The Childcare Commission consultation closed almost 10 months ago, at the end of August 2012, but we still do not know any more about the consultation responses than we did at the time.
“The department now says that it will not release the information on the grounds that to do so would breach the formulation and development of Government policy. This is difficult to understand given that the Government has already presented a variety of policy proposals.
“At the time of the release of the ‘More Great Childcare’ proposals back in January, early years minister Elizabeth Truss said: ‘We will shortly publish the report by our commission on childcare’. But how long is ‘shortly’? Many in the sector believe the delay has little to do with policy formation and is more about handling the PR fallout of critical sector submissions.
“We are also hearing the same message with regard to relaxing childcare ratios. The Department for Education is now refusing to respond to our ‘Rewind on Ratios’ e-petition against the proposals until it has published a response to the consultation on ratios, which, again, it expects to do ‘shortly’. This is despite the fact that the petition passed the 10,000 signature mark required to force a Government response a month ago.
“This Government came into office proudly announcing that it would be more open and transparent. To date, the early years sector has seen little evidence of this.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It would be absurd to publish responses to the Childcare Commission before the commission is complete and the final report is published. In line with standard practice, we will publish a summary of the responses alongside the commission report. At that point we will fully comply with Mr Leitch’s request, but not before.”
Mr Leitch added: "It's odd that the department has described the request as 'absurd', given that it took them over two months to decide whether or not to release the information. At the time, their explanation was that it was a 'complex' issue that needed to be 'weighed up carefully' - so what's changed?"