The government’s drive to end child poverty will fail if
it relies on the targeted area-based initiatives contained in the
national childcare strategy, charity the Daycare Trust has warned,
writes Jonathan Pearce.
According to a policy report published by the trust, initiatives
targeted on disadvantaged areas will not reach the majority of
children in poverty because most of them do not live in these
The strategy’s market-led and area-based approach creates
large regional variations in the level and pattern of childcare
provision, so that access to childcare is dependent on where
families live, their income and their employment status.
The report argues that investment in universal childcare –
delivered through integrated childcare and early years services in
children’s centres – is key to tackling child poverty.
It urges the government to build on the nearly universal provision
of part-time pre-school education for three and four-year-olds.
The paper also highlights “four fundamental flaws” threatening
the delivery of universal childcare. First, childcare and education
are still seen as different in terms of funding, staff and location
– pre-school education for three and four-year-olds is near
universal, does not have time-limited funding and is not linked to
parents’ ability to pay, while training, pay and career
opportunities are limited for childcare staff compared to
Secondly, the growth of childcare is threatened by staff
recruitment and retention problems, but integration of early years
and childcare services would result in higher quality services and
better career paths for staff which would help the childcare
workforce to grow.
Thirdly, the current tax credit system for working parents,
together with area-based policies targeted at disadvantaged areas,
leave out many families who want and need childcare services.
And, finally, insecure funding for many childcare initiatives
creates uncertainty, undermines quality, exacerbates staffing
turnover and ends in the closure of services.
* ‘Meeting the Child Poverty Challenge: Why Universal Childcare
is Key to Ending Child Poverty’ available from 020 7840 3350.