Vox Pop: Is free childcare vital to the economic recovery?

Monday, January 9, 2012

The IPPR claims money generated by working mums would be greater than the cost of free nursery places for all

YES: Anand Shukla, chief executive, Daycare Trust

Childcare provision is a vital part of our economic infrastructure. If childcare costs are too high, then parents on low and middle incomes will be less likely to be able to afford to stay in work, which reduces tax revenue and increases benefits payments.  

In spring 2011, the Daycare Trust surveyed more than 4,000 parents to explore their views on childcare access and the impact of childcare costs on family incomes and work prospects. The majority of parents in severe poverty were no better off when in work and paying for childcare costs.  

The success of the free entitlement in terms of take-up shows the high levels of parent demand for free childcare. Such childcare must be of high quality to ensure that it successfully enables child development.


NO: Neil O’Brien, director, Policy Exchange

Free universal childcare would make it easier for parents to go out to work. The problem is the cost.
The IPPR argues that such spending will pay for itself, by increasing employment and tax revenues. The Treasury will be rather sceptical of this argument. People already working and paying for childcare could stop paying. Hours of childcare provided by granny would be picked up by the taxpayer instead.

To match Swedish levels of spending on children’s services, we would have to spend £7bn extra a year. Raising this in extra taxation would be bad for the economy. But the report raises important questions. To what extent does spending more on childcare improve a child’s development? How much does the cost of childcare affect whether parents will work or not?


NO: Margaret Morrissey, founder of campaign group Parents Outloud

It’s difficult to advocate free childcare for all having campaigned to raise the school starting age to six and have young children in a home environment as long as possible.

Recognising that some mothers have to contribute to the family budget or be the breadwinner, I can support the 15 hours provided for three- and four-year-olds.

The IPPR suggests 25 hours per week free, but this would still not cover a full-time job. We are in a time of deep recession with fewer jobs available, so offering more free childcare as a means of providing government with a significant return in higher tax revenue will not work. Job or no job – we are broke.


YES: Graeme Cooke, associate director, IPPR

Yes, there are now more than a million women out of work, looking for a job. This is a tragedy for the families concerned and a disaster for the economy.

Looking ahead, the only way we will improve living standards and be able to afford decent public services is if we raise the employment rate. In the first instance, that requires growth. But another vital part of the story should be prioritising high quality, affordable childcare that enables mothers to work – boosting both household income and tax revenues.

Those countries in Europe with higher female employment rates than Britain, such as Denmark
and the Netherlands, have built up comprehensive early years systems that enable parents to balance work and family life.


YES: Purnima Tanuku, chief executive, National Day Nurseries Association

It would be great if all children and families could be using quality early education and childcare, however this is going to be extremely difficult to achieve in the current fiscal climate.

As with the existing free early education and childcare funded by the government, it is vital for the sustainability of the sector that the levels of funding are sufficient and ringfenced to enable the money to reach the frontline and for nurseries to provide high quality early years education and care.

It is not just about economics though, with the recent announcement on the expansion of free nursery places for less advantaged two-year-olds, the government is supporting early education more than ever before and it is important that this continues to give children the very best start in life.

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