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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 February 2014

Affordable childcare? And where are the jobs?

A north London parent

In Con-Dem Britain childcare is extortionate. Nearly a third of parents with children under five spend 30% of their monthly income on childcare.

As the parent of a seven-month old, at the NCT (National Childcare Trust) monthly 'coffee mornings' I go to, you would be forgiven for thinking the talk would revolve around our babies.

But no, the cost of childcare, the scramble for quality places and the fear of going back to work (emotionally and financially) dominate the discussions.

So genuine proposals from the government and opposition on helping with the burden of childcare and helping the 64% of mothers not in work that say the high cost of it is a barrier to them taking employment, are likely to be big vote winners.

Last week Ed Miliband announced that Labour's childcare plans would get '570,000 mums in jobs'. Labour is proposing an increase in free childcare for working parents from 15 to 25 hours, for three and four year olds, to make this happen.

Alongside this, all parties are agreed on the idea of lengthening the school day to 'help' working parents.

This would have a big effect on the economy. The Institute for Public Policy Research has said that Labour's proposal would give the Treasury 20,000 more than it costs over a four year period.

They also state that getting 280,000 mothers back into the workforce would generate an extra 1.5 billion in tax revenues and benefits savings.

However, how Labour plan to find jobs for those 570,000 mothers they will free from the shackles of expensive childcare is a gaping omission from the proposals.

Are they expected to join the 2.32 million people officially unemployed at present in the fight for the paltry 569,000 job vacancies nationally? (Office for National Statistics - 22/01/14)

Labour and the Con-Dems also omit how they plan to achieve proposals on childcare provision while they (both in government through central cuts and cuts by councils) have closed 578 Sure Start centres between the election and November 2013.

In fact under David Cameron, while the number of under-fours has risen by 125,000, there are 35,000 less childcare places.

Cuts

Alongside this there have been large cuts to already overworked school teaching staff (and their pay and conditions) and the government wants to increase this burden by introducing proposals to have primary schools provide places for two year olds too.

The moves proposed by the government and Labour all point in the same direction: 'battery farm' style childcare where, in a bid to tie parents to their desks for longer, they put their children in facilities with not enough staff (the government also plans to change the 1:8 staff ratios for after school clubs in primary schools to as much as 1:30) and under-qualified staff.

If the government and Labour are serious about helping families with the cost of childcare they should look at tackling the poverty of low wages and the cost of the care that forces parents into a financial straitjacket.

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In The Socialist 19 February 2014:


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