Government Urged to Press Ahead with Childcare Reforms
Last month it was reported thar Rishi Sunak’s government had dropped the reforms to the childcare sector planned by his predecessors, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. While the sector had been broadly sceptical of the proposals, this was due to concerns about the shape the reforms might take, not disagreement that change is required. There is increasingly widespread recognition that childcare in the UK needs serious attention due to its critical importance to the economy and the challenges in delivering high quality service that parents can afford.
In an unusual intervention the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called upon the government to adopt widespread reforms, including extending the 30 free hours entitlement to 1 and 2 year olds, to relieve much of the financial pressure that new parents find themselves under. Moreover, the CBI has said these changes must be properly funded to reflect the true cost of provision and that the estimated £8.9 billion cost should be set aside in the upcoming March budget. The proposal was broadly welcomed by the sector, although the NDNA warned that existing provision should be reformed before hours are increased.
However, the discussion appears to be moot for now. Shortly after the CBI’s announcement, the Treasury indicated that the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, would reject the idea as ‘unaffordable’ and that they would be looking at other options to improve the cost, flexibility, and availability of childcare for working parents. It remains to be seen whether the budget will include any good news for the childcare sector, but it is increasingly clear that intervention of some kind is going to be necessary.