Government 'plans to deregulate childcare' in Children and Families Bill

By Gabriella Jozwiak, Monday 12 November 2012

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Childcare regulations may be relaxed by an amendment to the Children and Families Bill, CYP Now has learned.

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Deregulation could mean ratios of childminders to children would decrease. Image: Martin Figura

Decreased ratios of staff to children and lower qualification requirements could be included in the legislation, according to a source working closely with the coalition government’s childcare commission.

The source said a “form of deregulation” would be added to the bill that would affect childminders and group level childcare providers, but they were unsure about the exact form the deregulation might take.

The early years sector has expressed concern at the proposal, which follows suggestions for deregulation made by children’s minister Elizabeth Truss earlier this year.

“Any form of watering down of regulation and ratios or qualifications can only be damning to good quality early years childcare,” said Denise Burke, director of United for All Ages and the Good Care Guide.

“If we were talking about taking away some of the burden of registration and paperwork required for inspection, that would be a good thing, but if we’re talking about regulation on ratios or dumbing down of qualifications, that would be a very bad move.”

Parliament is expected to introduce the bill in January 2013, meaning any amendments would have to be announced before that date.

The National Childminding Association's (NCMA) director of professional standards, Stuart Turner, said he hoped this would provide an opportunity to debate the amendment before it becomes law.

"As our members are very concerned about possible changes to childminding regulations and ratios in England, if the rumours about the bill are true, NCMA would welcome the scrutiny that a parliamentary process would ensure," said Turner.

June O’Sullivan, chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation, said she was unsurprised by the suggestion.

“Our minister is quite determined to take this through even though I don’t think the sector is supportive of this and I don’t think it’s in the sector’s interests,” she said, referring to Truss.

Truss has suggested adopting a model of childcare regulation similar to that used in the Netherlands in a paper for the think-tank Centre Forum.

“There is a political drive for this in terms of trying to make childcare more cost effective, but it may well prove to be more costly as it did in Holland,” continued O’Sullivan.

The Department for Education did not confirm whether changes to childcare regulation would be included in the bill.

"Parents want and deserve quality childcare that is both affordable and accessible," said a DfE spokeswoman.

"We are looking at best practice in countries such as France, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, where high quality and greater professional autonomy have been successfully combined. We will be setting out next steps in due course."

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