Childacre photo. FMS/CC
Childacre photo. FMS/CC

Terri, Coventry Socialist Party and childcare worker

Jeremy Hunt announced an extra £500 million of funding to early childhood education providers (typically referred to as childcare), in the 6 March Spring Budget. This is for the roll-out of 30 hours of free childcare for all under fives by September 2025. As a result of this public funding, private-sector childcare providers are set to make bumper profits.

Childcare used to be provided by local authorities but the sector suffered drastic underfunding under Tory prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major. When New Labour was elected in 1997, it committed to improving the position. But, in line with their policies in areas like the NHS, New Labour opened the sector to further privatisation under the guise of ‘partnership’, arguing this would raise standards. 25 years later, we have unfettered profiteering. Some of England’s childcare providers have reported an average profit of 22% of their turnover since 2018.

Today’s childcare system sees large childcare providers run as businesses with a focus on profits first and as an education setting second. Meanwhile, the workforce are living on minimum wage (sometimes at the apprentice rates of minimum wage) and struggling to keep up with the cost-of-living crisis. As a result, childcare workers are leaving the sector in droves. Childcare providers are struggling with systemic staffing shortages and are regularly turning to temping agencies to cover shortfalls.

Things aren’t getting better. A report by the Early Education and Childcare Coalition found that 57% of the workforce are thinking of leaving the sector in the next year due to low wages, high stress and the relaxation of child-adult ratios.

Mike Short, head of local government and education for public sector trade union Unison, said: “There’s clearly big bucks to be made in childcare, but this is all so wrong. Large investors have muscled in on the sector, siphoning off the profit, piling on the debt, and forcing smaller nurseries out. This is extremely bad news for infants, parents and childcare workers.”

Many childcare practitioners feel undervalued, demoralised and overworked with no extra pay for our efforts.

Marketisation of childcare has failed parents and staff. The only beneficiaries have been the corporate owners that buy up independent businesses, strip them to the bone and run them as soulless money printing machines.

Socialist Party calls for:

  • Fully funded, publicly owned childcare, compensation for existing owners only paid on the basis of proven need
  • Childcare workers to be covered by collective agreements, negotiated by trade unions, that guarantee living wages for all staff, pension provision, and fair terms and conditions
  • Free high-quality childcare for all
  • A socialist society to guarantee our children the bright future they all deserve