Anne Longfield, 4Children’s chief executive, is calling on schools to give
parents a hand by providing holiday play schemes. But with money scarce,
ultimately this looks like a political problem that MPs have failed to
address for too long. They can’t delay any longer.
Longfield says: “All political parties are promising to require schools to
extend their hours in their election manifestos but these figures show the
scale of the change that needs to take place. Promises for the future will
also offer little comfort for parents struggling this summer, many of whom
will need to take time off work or rely on family and friends to provide the
So what do the new mums in the Government have to say about it? Equalities
Minister Jo Swinson has just returned from maternity leave so is no doubt
keenly aware of the expense and difficulties of arranging childcare. Sadly,
despite my repeated calls, she was unavailable for comment.
No word from Jo Swinson
It was a similar story with Nicky Morgan, the new Education Secretary and
Women’s Minister. Plainly, she’s got rather a lot on her plate, now she’s in
charge of one of the most prestigious Whitehall departments only four years
after becoming an MP.
But as a mother herself, she too must be aware of the desperate need for
change now – not in three decades’ time.
Where’s the urgency?
The Education Department gave me a statement which made me wonder how much
they understood the urgency. It focused very much on the – somewhat limited,
though undoubtedly useful – measures the Government has taken to deal with
demand, rather than increasing supply.
“More than 1.4m children are already accessing 15 hours free childcare a week
and from this September this entitlement will be extended to the 40 per cent
most disadvantaged two-year-olds…we have also introduced tax free
childcare – up to £2,000 per child,” the statement read.
Well I don’t want to look a gift childcare voucher in the mouth, but
affordability of care is only half the story. What 4Children has highlighted
is the absence of holiday care – even if you were hypothetically prepared to
pay the earth.
And on that the response from the department is rather wishy-washy. They’re
trying to make it easier for school nurseries to open, though the emphasis
seems to be on after hours childcare during term times, not the holidays.
And they say they’re doing their utmost to encourage new providers to set up
shop. But that’s a solution for next summer holiday if we’re lucky.
According to Lucy Powell, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children, the
situation’s got worse since the Coalition came to power.
“Availability of holiday childcare has nearly halved – now just 27 per cent of
councils have enough holiday childcare for parents who work full time,
compared to 49 per cent in 2009,” she told me.
And even if you’re lucky enough to find a holiday solution, it’s damn
expensive. “Our research shows that costs for summer holiday care have gone
up four times faster than wages in the private, voluntary and independent
sector whilst maintained public holiday childcare schemes have rocketed by a
fifth – five times faster than wages,” Powell said.
If Labour has its way this will be a defining issue of the election campaign.
America would call it the battle for the soccer mom’s vote. If only there
were enough holiday sports clubs to justify the term.
Source Article from http://telegraph.feedsportal.com/c/32726/f/579309/s/3c97ff15/sc/7/l/0L0Stelegraph0O0Cwomen0Cmother0Etongue0C10A9735990CSummer0Eholiday0Echildcare0Enightmare0EWhy0Eare0ENicky0EMorgan0Eand0EJo0ESwinson0Estaying0Emum0Bhtml/story01.htm
Summer holiday childcare nightmare: Why are Nicky Morgan and Jo Swinson staying mum?
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