The country is facing some fairly large problems in term of the economy and about benefits payments. The government want more people to work so that the economy picks up and so that benefits payments go down. However the act of going to work for the majority of families means a reduction in income and lifestyle due to childcare costs. Additionally the government also has additional cost in attempting to cover some of this cost if you use a certified child minder. However the cost of childcare varies regionally, families that have friends/family that will help them for a cost miss out because that help may not be registered therefore the government would help with the cost. What’s more any attempt by the government to adjust this system to help people into work is often just absorbed by childcare fees going up further. All this is also pivotal on being able to find and maintain someone who is certified to look after children.
If your childcare provider vanishes and you can’t find another you are left in a very nasty place. You can either look to your peers as a support network however any cost involved will not be supported by the government so it has to come out of your pocket if you can scrape it together OR you can give up work, however if you do this because you can’t afford childcare you can’t claim benefit for the next 3 months as it’s seen that you’ve just jacked in your job. So you are essentially at the mercy of private childcare providers who are essentially the only winners in the governments drive to get parents back to work.
The logical solution to this would be to provide childcare at schools. They have the facilities and often have support staff that would appreciate earning some extra money. If all schools provided access from 6 am to 6 pm for children age 4 – 12 then the majority of companies are flexible enough to provide hours that would fit in with these times. What’s more the government would then be in control of the costs and the payments of such could go directly to the people providing the cover and the rates be set nationally rather than regionally. Additionally the school environment is one of education, low supervision activities such as reading, art, drama or group projects could easily be undertaken with minimum effort therefore providing a chance at an enhanced education. It also instills an ethos and understanding that it’s good and rewarding to work on the children that are bought together because their parents go out to work. Nearly every parent I know would be able to work more hours if this was in place and would therefore be making the economy more vibrant and pay more taxes.
As an example childcare in West Sussex is costing £8k per year for 2 days a week for three kids for one family. Lets assume that it costs the school £16k a year to open longer hours in terms of maintenance and fuel costs. Lets assume we’re going to give a teaching assistant £8k per year extra to cover 6am until schools starts and another £8k to cover school end until 6 or 7pm. You have a total cost of £32k. So if you get more than 4 families using the service it is cost neutral, obviously across a school there are going to be way more than 4 families who are going to want to use the service. It has the potential to also give other families the confidence to look for work that otherwise wouldn’t. What’s more all of these families will be able to work longer and more productive hours as they won’t have to worry about finding and maintaining childcare or the costs fluctuating rapidly.
With the governments push to provide additional support to families by 2015 in terms of childcare costs this is something the government or local councils should seriously be looking into as the chances are that any additional money into the system will simply push up costs.