Letter: Childcare clubs for the community

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The Independent Online
Sir: Polly Toynbee's review of child care ("Who should be holding the baby?", 16 June) highlights the absence of either a consistent policy or adequate resourcing to support all types of care. Childcare support has many qualitative benefits not yet appreciated by our rulers. Policies are too often directed at securing short-term political advantage, rather than strengthening family life, stimulating children, preventing ill-health and the many other potential benefits.

The Government's own out-of-school childcare initiative is an example of a good idea spoiled by lack of a halfpenny-worth of tar. Here on the Isle of Wight we have generated more places than ever anticipated, and demonstrated not only the latent demand but also the value of an early years unit that draws together education and social services. Yet, small out-of-school care schemes in rural areas with low wages and insecure or seasonal employment patterns struggle to survive. Fees have to be kept low if parents are to afford them, yet they have to be sufficiently high to pay for qualified staff. The result is that schemes both exclude children in greatest need and, in many areas, cannot afford to pay staff a living wage.

One solution would be to target help at poorer families. This would boost the numbers in small rural clubs, both enabling the cost to be kept low and helping financial viability. Additionally, the Government's childcare initiative, due to end in March 1996, could be extended in a modified form to provide on-going support to local umbrella federations of clubs. These would ensure that the undoubted benefits of the initiative continue to be felt.

Yours faithfully,

ADRIAN BARRITT

Director

Isle of Wight Rural Community Council

Newport, Isle of Wight

17 June

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