Quality costs money

No one could argue with the vision of the chief executive of the new Children’s Workforce Development Council. Quite simply, Jane Haywood wants to help produce a highly trained and skilled children’s workforce capable of delivering the desired improved outcomes for children and young people. But, just as money makes the world go round, it also plays a huge role in the recruitment and retention of staff. And better trained staff will quite rightly demand salaries that reflect their qualifications and experience – particularly when they have been underpaid and undervalued in the past.

Perhaps the biggest challenge the government faces in terms of creating a workforce fit to deliver its children’s services reforms is in the early years sector. Here, there are both quantity and quality issues – neither of which can be separated out from the shocking fact that the average early years worker has little in the way of qualifications or prospects and currently earns just £6 an hour.

Despite recognition in the children’s workforce strategy of the potential “cost implications” for employers of a better-qualified early years workforce, the government has allocated just £125 million a year to fund these changes – a sum which amounts to just £500 extra per worker. Unbelievably, the strategy, rather than accepting that quality early years provision comes at a price, cites the on-going cost implications of achieving quality services as a “main risk”.

The government knows that its ambitions for improved outcomes for children and young people depend on the hard work and commitment of those working with children, young people and their families day in, day out. Haywood and CWDC chair, the former education secretary Estelle Morris, have both publicly said that improvements in training levels should lead to improvements in pay. The government must heed these wise words if it wants to realise its dream of a “world-class” children’s workforce. No vision or strategy can change anything without the support of the people on the frontline.

Click here to see the interview with Jane Haywood

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