Childcare needs to be overhauled to make it more affordable and of better quality, a report says.
The average British family spends 27 per cent of their income on childcare, but recent studies have shown widespread problems with quality, price and availability, according to Elizabeth Truss, the Tory MP for South-West Norfolk.
Ms Truss, who wrote the report for the CentreForum think-tank, claims that while the number of nursery places has risen since 1996, the number of childminder places has dropped drastically, to 245,000 in 2010. Her report argues that this has led to price inflation while, at the same time, becoming a childminder is now fraught with red tape.
She says childminders should be allowed to take on more children at one time. Under existing rules there has to be one minder for every three children aged five or under. This ratio should be changed to one adult for every five children aged five or under, she says. This would attract higher-paid staff, improve the quality and availability of childcare, or make it more affordable, and make the UK comparable to other EU nations.
Ms Truss said: "The Coalition has a great opportunity. Reform could lead to an increase in availability of flexible childcare and an end to spiralling costs."