One of the biggest burdens, stresses and worries for most young families is organising and funding child care for their children. It’s a serious headache for most parents in contrast to the trouble-free provisions for parent on the continent. We have many families in this country that face stark choices.
There are some surveys that suggest as many as one in four parents have contemplated giving up work to stay at home and look after the kids. It is cheaper and more cost-effective than childcare. We have other surveys pointing to two million grandparents giving up time, money or work to help with the childcare needs of their offspring. Their efforts go unrecognized and unrewarded. I also have antedoctal evidence of a lone parent that was advised to stay at home rather than get a job because she ‘would be better off’. The childcare infrastructure in this country is clearly not fit for purpose.
Labour have recently pledged to see to it that all primary schools provide pre-school and after school care between the hours of 8:00 and 6:00pm. I totally support that but this only applies to children of school age. Separately, the Labour party have pledged to increase the number of nursery education to 25 hours per week. This again only applies in term-time and I note the view from the Childcare Trust that suggests there is little value in increasing the number of hours of nursery education to 20 or 25 hours. Childcare is not the same as nursery education
The conservatives have recently proposed to double nursery education to 30 hours per week for all three to four year olds. There seems to be one or two conditions to that and a reality check assessment by the BBC suggested that this proposal would only reach 140,000 household out of the 550,000 households that currently have three and four year olds with both parents working. I agree with Nick Clegg who commented that these proposals will do nothing to help working families with children under the age of three. The implication is that at least one parent will have to take upto three years off work before they will get any help.
There has, for many years, been the concept of playgroups. These groups were often organised by parents themselves on a volunteer basis. It provided mutual support to parents as well as opportunities for child to learn from play and begin acquiring socialising skills. Playgroup organisations exist in a number of countries. The problem is that they are voluntary and it is anyone guess as to whether you will be lucky enough to live in area that has a Playgroup.
I propose that we organise a national network of playgroups to provide daycare facilities for all parents as a compliment to nursery education.