Reform and directly fund childcare
Measures will boost funding and create providers that put families before profits.
Childcare is not only underfunded but provision is broken. In recent years large and increasingly international chains have moved into the sector while many state childcare and Sure Start centres have been closed, sold off or privatised. Social assets are being turned into financial assets.
- Parents should not be expected to act as sovereign consumers, using their childcare vouchers and benefit payments to select the optimal way to organise childcare. So, as a first step, providers should be funded directly to deliver free or affordable childcare with a fee cap, which will necessarily require a higher level of government funding. Investment in childcare is key as an effective mechanism to address social inequality, improve life chances, prevent future harm and increase opportunities for parents and carers (particularly women) to take and/or maintain employment; it will pay for itself over the medium to long term.
- Direct funding at a higher level should be provided on the condition that providers meet a level of service and model of operation and governance set out in a ‘childcare charter’. This would include measures to support more democracy and transparency, with parents and childcare workers serving on elected boards and all staff being paid the real living wage. This will increase local engagement and help reduce the risk that future policymakers might withdraw funding or reopen services to the market.
- The sale of public nurseries on the open market would be frozen and, as with firms providing adult social care, staff and parents involved in businesses in transition or for sale would have a right to buy, with incentives and support offered by the Cooperative Development Agency to transform providers into multi-stakeholder cooperatives. This could include the underlying assets remaining state owned to reduce the risk of their future leveraging or further marketisation.
Tags Active state
- Childcare reform. New Economics Foundation (forthcoming)
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