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demands for reform of Early Years funding and urgent conditional bailout

Post Pandemic Childcare For immediate release – Monday 28 June 2021 Labour Party Women’s Conference 2021 Calls for reform of Early Years funding and urgent conditional bailout A motion calling for an ‘urgent conditional bailout of the [Early Years] sector (including childminders)’ alongside reform with ‘changes to funding so settings get direct payment from DfE (as schools do)’ was passed at the first online Labour Party Women’s Conference this weekend, becoming Labour Party Women’s conference policy 2021. The motion calls for direct funding to “cover the actual costs of staff and overheads, increasing democratic accountability, and to make all childcare provision for the under fives affordable and of high quality and to make sure there is enough childcare for every family who needs it.” This weekend was the first online Labour Party Women’s Conference, where delegates from constituency Labour Parties, and unions across the country, met to discuss policy and pass motions to influence the shadow cabinet and future manifestos. The Early Years debate was given just 45 minutes, and heard alongside a motion on schools which likewise talked about the ‘long-standing issues of disadvantage and discrimination that impact on opportunities and life chances of women’ due to ‘the marketisation and privatisation of education’. Nonetheless, despite being scheduled with limited time for such an important issue for gender equality, there was clear support for the motion and appetite for discussion about the unaffordable situation of childcare in England. Mariam Rasekh, from Bethnal Green and Bow, moving the motion, raised the issue of unpaid care and the need for urgent measures to support parents and families (such as increasing child benefit and an end to the 2 child cap) to address growing child poverty: “In 1945 the Labour Party had a vision. It listened to Eleanor Rathbone and introduced the universal payment: Family Allowance. It has since become Child Benefit; means-tested and diminished.” She also warned of the impending childcare crash: “closures … in part due to the impact of the pandemic and in part due to the chronic under-funding of the government’s childcare entitlements.” Stating, “The Tories don’t care about the crash of these settings. They are happy for multinational chains that already dominate the childcare market to consolidate their portfolios. …They don’t care about the impact on Early Years workers or parents struggling with no affordable childcare option left. They don’t care about gender equality and they don’t care about children.” Earlier this month Tulip Siddiq, Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, raised in parliament that 2,500 childcare providers – nurseries, childminders and nannies – have left the register since this January. The response from Vicky Ford (Early Years minister) was that – “there are always reasons providers come and go from the [Ofsted] register including mergers and acquisitions”. Kezia Coleman from Kingston and Surbiton, seconding the motion spoke passionately about the need for a change to the system to help address the gender pay gap/ motherhood penalty: “The UK has the second most expensive childcare system in the world. Many women see their pay cheques wiped out, just to remain in the workforce.” Chioma Mgbeokwere from Salford and Eccles described a successful parent-run campaign supported by Unison that stopped the closure of crucial public council-run day nurseries in Salford in 2018. She raised that even with this excellent provision remaining, the size of the population means there is still outstanding need: “Families continue to cry out for a high-quality childcare that is affordable and accessible… The current funding system is failing our childcare providers, families, education and communities.” Charlotte Rowley, also representing Salford, warned that her local non-profit nursery Tiny Tots, with a reputation for excellent work, training workers to support children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, and known for “supporting every family in the community that needs it”, was one of the many independent nurseries hit hard by lack of funding and cuts. “It is nurseries like this, that put children before profit, that keep our communities going, support our most vulnerable families and key workers” that are now at risk. Charlotte drew on her experience working in a private nursery on a temporary zero-hours contract, raising that “as well as learning how to change a nappy” she learned about the importance of this time for children’s development and how it is consistently undervalued. The Early Years motion raised that many childcare workers earn under minimum wage. It also raised the impact of the hostile environment on the hidden side of the childcare industry - the exploitation of nannies, au pairs and unregistered childminders. The call for a ‘conditional’ bailout in the motion echoes a letter sent to Vicky Ford this February, from Post Pandemic Childcare, a new coalition of independent and non profit nurseries, early years workers, and parent campaigners – who likewise called for a conditional funding injection with ‘settings committing to: affordable, flexible childcare for parents, Real Living Wage for all, and no dividends or share buy-backs.’ The Post Pandemic Childcare coalition comment:

“Successive governments have failed women – who undertake the majority of unpaid or underpaid childcare work. Instead of investing in nursery settings and the workforce, they have relied on the market to provide, which, along with underfunding, has now lead to the current crisis. We urgently need to come together, to demand the government invest in childcare as essential social infrastructure. It’s great to see these issues raised by women at this national conference. We hope other political parties will follow suit and back these demands, and invite all who want to fight for a better deal for workers, parents and children to get in touch with us”.

Notes to Editors:

The Early Years motion is available here: https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/1-Agreed-Composite-Motion-Early-Years-and-Education.pdf Contact For media enquiries, please call Louise on +44 7813 306451 Email: PostPandemicChildcare@gmail.com spokespeople available for comments and interviews.

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