Hackney MP says proposed childcare reforms are bad for children
- Credit: Archant
Hackney MP Meg Hillier has condemned government proposals to increase the amount of children that a childminder or nursery can look after.
In a Department for Education report called More Great Childcare, which came out last Tuesday, early years minister Elizabeth Truss outlined proposals to increase the number of under-one-year-old children that a childminder can manage from one to two and the number of one-to-five-year-olds that they can manage from three to four.
The proposed ratio for nursery children will increase much more steeply – with the number of under two-year-olds a nursery staff member can care for increasing from three to four and the number of two-year-olds they can look after from four to six.
The government believe this will make childcare affordable and ensure that childcare staff, who are notoriously underpaid, will receive more money.
Ms Hillier, who opposes the changes, said: “I don’t think increasing the number of children that people have to look after will benefit a child.
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“It’s also not relaxing for parents who are worried whether their child is being looked after properly.
“Rich people will be able to afford higher levels of support whereas poor people will have to make do with less support for their children.
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“From the round tables I’ve held at sure start centres, no-one from a range of backgrounds told me it’s a good idea.
“The government says this is going to reduce the cost of childcare. I can’t see how this will happen.”
Childminder Jenny Scott, 31, of Hoxton, who has been working in childcare for over 10 years, said: “I don’t support the proposals. It compromises safety and quality of childcare for children. Can a childminder look after four under-fives alone? No they can’t.
“I took three under-threes to the park the other day and I was overwhelmed. You can’t push two double-buggies. How can you transport four children form one place to another.
“In a house it’s easier but you’re spreading yourself too thin.
“I’ve worked in a baby room before when the ratio is three to one. It’s tough!! “I don’t think it will cut costs for parents either.
“They are assuming childminders will reduce fees.
“If I’m doing more work, I’m not charging less.”
Audrey Morgan, 50, is manager of Toucan Day Nursery, Teale Street which looks after children from two weeks and above. She supports the proposals in principle, saying: “It should work if there risk assessments are done to makes sure that the right number of staff are there at all times.
“I don’t think it will affect care or have a negative impact of children.
“At feeding times it may become difficult and we will probably draft in more staff to help. We are already bringing extra people in during feeding times because I believe in easing the stress of my staff.
“Nursery staff are not well-paid so by increasing the ratio of children, it will increase their salary. At least we don’t have to raise the fees for parents.”
Ms Truss said: “It is right that the Government does everything it can to ensure the provision delivering early education is of the highest quality, staff are paid better, and childcare is affordable to parents
“Relaxing ratios would not mean it was mandatory for childminders to look after more children. Far from it. Instead, it would allow them to exercise their professional judgment, giving them more options over how they operate.”