The government today announces a change to childcare ratios that “could potentially eventually” cut fees by “up to” £40 a week. But officials admit there’s no guarantee it’ll slash fees – and an industry chief says it won’t
Tory ministers unveil plans today to tear up toddler safeguarding rules in a bid to save cash.
A consultation will propose letting nursery workers in England look after five two-year-olds each, instead of four each.
The government claims it “could potentially eventually” cut costs for parents by “up to” £40 a week if nurseries pass on any savings.
A press release boasted it was part of a “drive to reduce the cost of childcare”.
But it’s understood there will be no way of forcing nurseries to pass on any savings to parents.
And government insiders doubt cash-strapped nursery firms will reduce their fees, the Mirror understands.
Early Years Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch contradicted the claims, saying the plan – which already exists in Scotland – will not lower the cost of childcare.
Instead he said ordering staff to care for more youngsters would hurt quality and fuel a “catastrophic recruitment crisis”.
Branding the announcement “time-wasting” and “beyond frustrating”, he added: “The ignorance and shortsightedness that would lead anyone to suggest relaxing ratios as a solution to the problems our sector faces is frankly mind-boggling.”
A consultation on the ratios plan will close on September 16.
It is one of a string of measures announced today by Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi.
Others include a pledge to cut the upfront costs of becoming a childminder, and allow them to spend more time in places like community centres instead of their own homes.
Childminder-to-toddler ratios will also be made more flexible and they will receive fewer Ofsted inspections.
Mr Zahawi today announces £10m extra investment for Maintained Nursery Schools – and a £1.2million marketing campaign to catch a million families who have not taken up their right to tax-free childcare, worth £2,000 a year.
The government offers 15 hours a week of free childcare for kids aged three and hour, rising to 30 hours for working families, and 15 hours for disadvantaged 2-year-olds.
Minister for Children and Families Will Quince said “too many” parents “are struggling to balance work with childcare costs.”
Mr Zahawi added: “This will support thousands of families across the country, helping to develop children’s skills while also supporting parents into work.”
But TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These proposals won’t help. Cutting staffing ratios will just put more pressure on underpaid and undervalued childcare workers.
“Instead of making policy on the hoof, ministers should listen to childcare workers. It’s time for a proper funding settlement.”
TUC figures say nursery fees for under-2s have risen by £185 a month since the Conservatives took office in 2010.
Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson added: “This is a pathetic announcement that fails to deliver the ambition families need to tackle spiralling childcare costs.
“Tweaking ratios is not the answer parents want and not the answer children need. The vast majority of providers have made clear this would make no difference to costs for parents.
“What’s more, parents have said the current system of tax free childcare is too complex to use even once explained. The government is out of ideas and failing children and families alike.”