Plans for child care workers published

    The government launched its 10-year strategy for child care last
    month.

    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
    workforce.

    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,
    2004

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