Prime Minister David Cameron has announced the launch of a new government commission to look into childcare, currently one of the top financial burdens on UK families.
The Daycare Trust have warned that as the cost of childcare outstrips wage increases, some parents may be forced out of work and onto benefits. Their report puts the average annual cost of part-time care for a child under two over £5,000 – with prices up to three times that in London.
The commission will be led by education minister Sarah Teather and work and pensions minister Maria Miller. As well as cutting the costs of childcare, they will look at ways to increase the supply of places and provide “wrap-around care” for over-fives during out-of-school hours and holidays.
Mr Cameron said: “Working parents want to know that after school or in the holidays their children will be looked after in a safe, happy environment that is affordable.
“We want to do all we can to reduce the cost of childcare for parents, and make sure they can find and afford high quality nurseries, after-school clubs and holiday schemes for their children.”
As well as looking to international childcare models for inspiration, the government will consider expanding innovative UK-based schemes. These include the Mossbourne Academy in east London, which offers a schoolday ending at 8pm and the Free School Norwich, which provides affordable childcare six days per week, 51 weeks of the year.
The commission will also investigate whether “red-tape” rules such as the adult-to-child ratio could be relaxed in areas where there are no after-school clubs.
Children's Minister Sarah Teather told ITV Daybreak that the commission aims to help the poorest of parents."We are doing a great deal at the moment to try and make child care more affordable, so by 2014 two out of five families will get 15 hours at a nursery, beginning with the poorest of those families, particularly those who are earning the least and working hard.We are trying to make sure that we can extend free nursery places to more families."
In February the shadow work and pensions secretary, Liam Byrne and the shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg, told the Observer newspaper childcare would be at the centre of Labour’s manifesto going into the next election. “We have known for years that investing in a child early on in life saves money in the long term.”
Childcare Around The World
Childcare is free to the lowest-income families. Other families pay up to 25 per cent of the cost of day care with the government making up the difference.
Parents of two or more children can leave employment or reduce their working hours and receive a flat-rate childcare benefit for up to three years. Eighty per cent of women aged 25-54 work full-time.
Germany has suffered from a shortage of childcare places for the under-5 for some years. According to EU figures, just under 40 per cent of German women have a full or part-time job compared with 75 per cent in Sweden.
Rated among the “lowest-low” of countries for birthrate, Japan also has the fourth lowest spending on childcare. Enrolment rates for children under 3 are 28 per cent, below the international average of 31 per cent.
The US is the only country among the 36 developed nations surveyed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) without a national paid parental leave policy. Although total public spending on education is above the average, most of this is spend on public compulsory education, not early years care.
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