The report released today by the Pre-school Learning Alliance, showing that the Government's free childcare scheme is massively underfunded, only goes to underline a sad truth.
The truth is that the Government's policies around families, work, childcare and early years education have clearly been put together on the back of a crumpled fag packet.
They want to get more stay-at-home mums back to work – by providing more childcare. But they're not funding existing childcare properly.
They want to open more nurseries – but they can't pay the staff to work in them.
They want parents to trust nurseries to look after their children – but they're not providing enough funding to ensure top-class care and education.
They claim that early years education is crucially important – but not important enough to put their hands in their pockets.
In the meantime, they're making it more and more difficult financially for parents to make the choice to stay at home and look after their own children.
So, it seems we're all royally screwed.
As Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, says: "We know that the first five years of a child's life are crucial to their long-term development, and yet the Government remains unwilling to give the support that providers need to be able to offer affordable, quality childcare."
That's pretty outrageous. And what's more, unless the Government takes action, and quickly, it's all going to get an awful lot worse.
The Pre-School Learning Alliance says the free childcare scheme is in 'crisis'.
Currently, childcare providers are being forced to make up a shortfall of around 21 of childcare costs, with further deductions for middle-income families and completely free childcare for those on lower incomes. There's a discount for siblings, there are highly qualified staff and all children in Denmark are guaranteed a childcare place from age 26 weeks to when they start school, at six. No wonder that that 86% of Danish women return to work after having a baby.
How do they pay for all this? Higher taxes. As they say in our part of the world, you don't get summat for nowt.
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