Childcare is too expensive said the Trades Union Congress in their well-timed report. Costs have risen by 50 per cent since 2008 and wages have only increased by 27 per cent. Parents have to top up fees and some cannot afford to return to work - especially those whose children are under two years.
Why is this happening?
Of course, costs have risen since 2008. We have National Living Wage, London Living Wage, pensions, years on years rent and rate increases, food hikes and creeping increases on all our resources. Yet nurseries have kept their fees down as low as possible for the last few years. The government tells the world they are investing £6billion in childcare but it's not enough. It has never been enough and the reality is that according to the NDNA report, 87 per cent of nurseries are losing money.
The new PSLA reaffirms that 42 per cent of the 1,662 nurseries surveyed for their report are closing, therefore destroying the fragile infrastructure which supports so many families in our two-person economy.
To begin with, the government described the funding as free which raised the blood pressure of the collective sector. Then quietly, and with vulpine cunning, the government and local authorities dropped the word free and replaced it with funded or subsidised; a description more in keeping the Trade Description Act. Concessions were agreed which helped parents better understand the funding gap and options for paying the difference, so they still had a reduction and their nursery could operate at a sustainable level.
"Ahh", said the government, "you are always complaining and scaremongering, £4.90 is more than enough, just get better at managing your services or we will get schools to do this for you" - or, according to the TUC, local authorities can deliver nurseries.
Isn't it interesting how so many politicians and policy wonks who have never run a business in their life think they can run a nursery!
Easy, it's child's play, anyone can do it! Clearly, they don't realise that child's play is complex and deeply scientific.
You don't need a GCSE in maths to see a funding shortfall from the London local authorities who provide a subsidy of £4.80, to fund a childcare place costing £7.40.
But what kind of a society are we that we are so willing to penny pinch on the education of our youngest citizens? Why do we act so disrespectfully towards those children who, when they grow up, will pay the taxes needed to keep us in retirement, (whether or not we have children).
Societies are judged by how they treat their children, so we won't be rated well. We will be remembered for failing to have a proper national conversation about what great childcare and education looks like, how it supports our children to learn and have fun in well-resourced happy nurseries with highly trained competent and valued staff.
June O'Sullivan is chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation. This blog first appeared on the LEYF website