Headlines: September 20th, 2004

A national childcare charity publishes a report today setting out a vision of the future where every child has the right to childcare and families have access to quality care close to their homes and at a price they can afford. “A new era for universal childcare?” has been drawn up by Daycare Trust in the lead up to the publication of the Government’s own plans for childcare.Today’s report consists of two papers. The first, written by Daycare Trust, details existing provision for childcare and early years services and says there is still only one registered childcare place for every four children under the age of eight. This, it acknowledges, is a significant improvement on the position in 1997 when there was only one place for every nine children. The paper says a typical nursery place for a child under two costs nearly 7,000 pounds a year and it claims that access to childcare is a lottery, dependent on where families live, their income and employment.

The second part of the report has been written by Professor Peter Moss of the Institute of Education at the University of London, who sets out his vision of children’s services for the next ten years. Looking to an ideal position in 2015 he writes, “The Government’s aim is to offer an entitlement to a place in a children’s centre or with a family day carer in a network for all children from 12 months of age. Before this age, children are assumed to be at home with parents taking parental leave. The parents and their children will be able to access a range of support services that all centres must offer.”

Plans for the future of childcare and early years provision is due to be published in November and Daycare Trust is challenging the Government to consider what sort of future it wants for Britain’s children.

As first steps to achieving the vision set out in its report, the Trust says the Government needs to consider extending the current free nursery education place to four hours a day and to create a unified and consistent set of services. It also calls for children’s centres in every community to properly respond to the specific needs of families from minority ethnic groups, parents working atypical hours and of disabled children. The Trust also calls on the Government to initiate a debate on the extent of public funding for children’s centres, on the level of investment needed and on the role of the private sector. Finally it wants a reform of the workforce model and a study of what type of professional is needed for integrated services.