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Mini Budget 2022: ‘Foolish’ government childcare plans could be brought forward

Written by: Rebecca Goodman
Reforms to the cost of childcare in the UK are to be brought forward, the government confirmed today.

Childcare fees in the UK are some of the highest in the world yet providers are struggling to keep up with demand and meet everyday costs.

To tackle the problem the latest government proposal is to reduce staff numbers to help cut childcare costs by £40 a week.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng did not mention anything about these proposals in his mini Budget speech today but within the small print of the Growth Plan document it said reforms would be brought forward.

The document published alongside Mr Kwarteng’s speech said: “The UK has some of the highest quality childcare provision in the world, but it is also one of the biggest costs facing working families today and a barrier for people remaining in the labour market.

“The government will bring forward reforms to improve access to affordable, flexible childcare.”

No other details were given on these reforms but organisations suggest they relate to proposed staff and child ratio changes, a measure previously criticised by groups. They warned it will put children at risk, it won’t save money for parents, and will not help early-care providers.

The government has been consulting on the reforms which would see the minimum number of staff required per child change from one adult per four children to one per five.

The consultation ended on 16 September but the results have yet to be published. Following the mini Budget, the Department for Education said the government is urgently looking at how to address childcare costs as a whole and confirmed an announcement will follow in the coming months.

Childcare providers and organisations have slammed the proposal

Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, said: “The government has sold this policy as a remedy to the cost-of-living crisis, when in reality, it will do absolutely nothing to cut costs for parents.

“Instead, this ridiculous plan risks compromising the quality of education and care that children receive at a time when they need more individual care and attention than ever, not to mention putting their basic safety and wellbeing in jeopardy.

“We know – and the government knows – that the only way to address rising costs is to properly fund the sector, but instead ministers see fit to waste time on a policy that doesn’t benefit anyone except the politicians who can claim to be ‘tackling rising childcare costs’.

“We urge the government to rethink this foolish direction of travel before the impact on our vital sector becomes not only catastrophic, but irreversible.”

Low-income parents pay to work more hours

It comes as news this week revealed that some parents are now paying to go back to work, if they work more than 25 hours a week and pay for childcare.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), who published the report, suggested four measures to tackle the current crisis in the childcare sector.

These included extending free hours to last throughout the year, not just in term time, and starting them at an earlier age so parents don’t need to wait until their child is three and a half before they can benefit.

A statement by the organisation Pregnant then Screwed said: “Childcare ratio changes will be a disaster for our children and the sector.

“If the government plans to push through ratio changes and ignore the 13,000 organisations and parents who responded to their consultation what does this say about our democracy?”

A nationwide protest is also planned by the organisation to call for change in the childcare system on 29 October.

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