Councils must help develop local child care services, says minister

Baroness Cathy Ashton, minister for Sure Start, early years and
child care, has called for local authorities to become more
involved with shaping child care services locally.

Ashton told the Daycare Trust’s annual conference last week that
councils must play a bigger part in developing local partnerships
around child care, Sure Start and early years development

She said: “We need to look at how we make sure local government
plays its role – local service partnerships can’t do that without
child care and Sure Start being included.”

Her statement follows last week’s publication of the government’s
cross-departmental review of child care services, which outlines
plans for councils to take ownership of the flagship Sure Start
programme, with council chief executives assuming strategic
responsibility (news, page 10, 14 November).

Matthew Taylor, director of think-tank the Institute of Public
Policy Research, supported the call for more council involvement in
child care. He said: “We need local authorities to provide a
strategic oversight – not to run our own things, but to have that
strategic capacity for all forms of child care.”

Stephen Burke, director of the Daycare Trust, reiterated concerns
that if the government did not improve child care workers’ pay and
training a possible recruitment crisis could result and scupper
plans to establish new children’s centres.

Some child care workers are paid only £9,000 a year.

“Many staff are paid barely above the minimum wage and that is not
going to attract or retain staff. We need long-term government
investment in terms of subsidising places,” Burke said.

But Ashton said she had no magic wand to make that happen. “We need
to look at bringing in people from outside that haven’t worked in
the field before,” she said.

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