Special report:- More staff needed to deliver childcare strategy

Campaigners welcomed the government’s 10-year childcare
strategy outlined in the chancellor’s pre-Budget report this
week, but called for a major expansion of the workforce to deliver
it, writes Amy Taylor.

Brown outlined

“A major increase in trained and qualified childcare
workers will be needed – more than doubling the current
numbers,” said Anne Longfield, chief executive of
children’s charity 4Children.

The strategy states that there will be a radical reform of this
workforce through a new qualification and career structure. The
current qualification levels amongst the childcare workforce are
generally low and providers often face recruitment and retention
difficulties fuelled by low pay.

The plan is for all early years and childcare workers to have
high levels of understanding of child development for children of
all ages and says that this will be achieved by clearer and more
accessible progression routes for the existing workforce. This will
enable them to get enhanced qualifications and accreditation of

Better qualifications

The government also wants all full daycare settings to be led by
graduate qualified early years professionals and for more early
years and childcare professionals to be trained to degree level. It
wants working with pre-school children to have an equal status to

A better qualified workforce will mean raising the levels of
pay, but the strategy does not state what these may be. This will
raise the overall cost of childcare, which goes against the
government’s goal of providing affordable places.

While the government says it will “invest additional
resources” to tackle this and ensure that parents won’t
face higher costs no sum is given. Recent research published by
childcare charity Daycare Trust found that the average gross pay of
a childcare worker is £7,800 a year compared to £22, 662
a year for nursery and primary teachers – showing that it will have
to be substantial sum.

Who will pay?

Erica De’Ath, chief executive of the National Council of
Voluntary Childcare Organisations, said that there was “real
recognition” from the government that workforce issues had to
be tackled but that some of the details now had to be worked out.
“Higher qualified people probably has higher costs attached
to it and how is this going to be paid for?” she asked.

Longfield said that it was essential that the extra cost was not
passed on to parents and that staff wages made up a high proportion
of childcare costs already. “We need to break the link
between the amount people are paid and what parents pay because we
need to pay people more but we can’t charge parents any
more,” she said.

Proposals for the workforce reforms will be published for
consultation in early 2005 as part of the children’s pay and
workforce strategy. With the government also announcing an extra
one million extra childcare places to be in place by 2010, they
can’t come soon enough.

Further proposals

Other measures announced in the pre-Budget statement related to
the strategy include:

* Investment

Expenditure on childcare will rise from £3.8 billion in
2004/5 to £4.4 billion by 2007-8, an increase of £600

 * Maternity Leave

The extension of paid maternity leave from 6 months to 9 months
from April 2007 and a goal of providing 12 months paid maternity
leave by the end of the next parliament.

Legislation to give mothers the right to transfer a proportion
of this paid leave to the child’s father by the end of the
next parliament.

* Childcare

Fifteen hours a week free childcare for 38 weeks a year for all
three and four-year-olds by 2010. This extends the current
provision of 12.5 hours a week for 33 weeks a year. The government
also announced a goal of extending the 15 hours to 20 hours a week
for 38 weeks a year but did not set a date for this.

An 1,000 extra children’s centres, creating 3, 500 by
2010. 2, 500 of these will be in place by 2008.

The government will legislate to place a new duty on local
authorities by 2008 to provide enough childcare to meet the

An out of school childcare place for all children aged 3-14
between the hours of 8am to 6pm every weekday by 2010

* Quality

A ‘transformation fund’ worth £125 million each
year from April 2006 to invest in high quality, sustainable,
affordable childcare provision.

* Affordability

£5 million from April 2006 for a pilot to work with the
Greater London Authority to address childcare affordability issues
in London.

An increase in the limits of the childcare element of the
Working Tax Credit from £200 to £300 a week for two or
more children and from £135 to £175 for one child from
April 2005, and an increase in the maximum proportion of childcare
costs that can be claimed from 70 per cent to 80 per cent from
April 2006.


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