The government launched its 10-year strategy for child care last
The focus of the strategy is choice, availability and
flexibility for parents; key words in Labour’s other
policies. It aims to legislate to give mothers’ 12 months
paid maternity leave; access to children’s centres and the
goal of 20 hours of free child care for three and four year olds
and improve tax credits and benefits for child care.
Key to implementing this policy is the development of a trained
Child care workers are generally low paid – with wages
around £5 an hour – often untrained and sometimes
operate informally. Employers only have to ensure that half of
their staff have NVQ two or above.
To achieve this the Department for Education and Skills and the
Treasury will invest £126m from 2006 to train the workforce.
It is envisaged that there will be a degree level qualification for
child care workers – which is the case in Germany – and
that graduates will lead staff in day centres.
Also the strategy wants a more diverse workforce that reflects
the UK population such as more men and greater numbers from ethnic
minorities – child care workers are overwhelmingly female
(minimum of 86 per cent) and white (96 per cent).
The strategy has been well received by the voluntary sector and
councils. But there are some concerns about competition for staff
with other children’s services if child care workers are to
become better qualified and paid. Also the time it will take to
implement and train the workforce is considered to be longer than
the 10-year strategy.
The government has set out its child care strategy as one of its
main planks of its policy; for it to succeed the workforce must
become better qualified and well paid.
• Choice for Parents, the Best Start for Children: a
10-Year Strategy for Childcare, HM Treasury, DfES, DTI, DWP,