This announcement regarding the Coalitions proposals for changes in nursery care come at an opportune moment because Nathalie is currently in the middle of interviews for beginning an apprenticeship in childcare. The apprenticeship which can lead to an NVQ involves placement at a local nursery, something she did whilst still at school as part of her work experience a couple of years ago. I'm a little confused by one aspect of the proposal and that is that increasing the number of children looked after by each carer will increase the quality of that care. Surely one of the big educational arguments of the Conservative party over at least the last forty five years has been that increased numbers in schools classrooms leads to a decline in the amount of time each teacher can devote pro rata to each pupil. Increasing the number of children per carer for under two year olds doesn't seem a particularly good idea simply in practical terms when you take into account such basic things as toilet breaks and the changing of nappies.
Another point of this proposed reform is that it smacks (no pun intended) of the 'Nanny knows best' style of Government which seems to be the opposite of the 'small Government' that at least one half of the Coalition would like to aspire to. We are gradually, almost by stealth, moving towards a society where only those with qualifications will have any value, or at least any value that will be recognised in exchange for monetary reward. Millions of mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins etc in this country look after children each day on behalf of parents who are working, in the majority of cases they do an excellent job and in the majority of cases they haven't passed a single exam, they work on the same principles that people looking after children have done for tens of thousands of years.
I'd also like to know how the proposed changes will actually lead to a reduction in care fees. David Cameron, in particular, seems stuck in a rut of outdated economic thinking, surely the idea of increased supply leading to increased demand leading to lower costs is no longer valid, you only have to look at the Oil industry to see how that works (clue - it doesn't in Europe). Businesses only pass on savings to their customers when they grow beyond the wildest dreams of any nursery care provider, in most cases simply staying in business is the most important thing meeting repair bills, staff wages, utility bills and repaying some of the considerable start-up capital that is required.
There is of course a much more subtle message in this plan which will go unnoticed by most people, which won't be pushed by the PR team working for the Coalition and which will disappear without as much as a post feeding burp - deficit reduction. The Coalition cuts to child care benefits in 2011-12 meant that around £500 a year was added to the cost of paying for childcare for around a million families. The Coalition decided to establish Dedicated School Grant, unfortunately for the taxpayer this was taken up with such enthusiasm, mainly by middle class families, that what seemed to be too good to be true was exactly that, taxpayers paying for childcare for people who could already afford it without taking a hit to their benefits. The long term hope must be a reduction in nursery day care fees leading to a reduction in taxpayers paying for them leading to a reduction in.........., yes you can join the dots.
Unfortunately the word 'cuts' has been used, misused and abused over the last three years to such an extent that it can no longer be uttered in mixed company without inducing a case of the vapours. It's currently possible to have up to £243 a month paid on your behalf in childcare vouchers via your employer, this is outside of the scope of tax and national insurance, again this means that the Treasury are losing out on tax and national insurance on that amount. If nursery fees can be reduced then the demand for childcare vouchers will decrease and the tax take will increase, although personally I would have thought that scrapping the Dedicated School Grant would be more beneficial to the taxpayer (as a whole), unfortunately that has been a PR disaster and is seen, rightly in my opinion, as a gift to those who have the means to support their children's nursery care without any further financial help from central funds.