"During the Budget speech last month, Jeremy Hunt announced a massive expansion of free childcare in England. But there’s a catch. This so-called ‘free’ childcare will in reality provide billions of pounds in subsidies to private companies. It was also revealed this week that the Prime Minister is being investigated after he failed to declare his wife’s shares in private childminding agency, Koru Kids – one of the companies that stands to benefit from the recent Budget announcements. Rather than supporting childcare workers and helping parents access quality, affordable childcare, the government’s latest plans for childcare herald a dangerous new era of profiteering and deregulation of childcare services [...]
To qualify for the extra hours of ‘free childcare’ announced in the Budget speech, parents must both earn at least £16,000. Research shows that the latest announcement will therefore disproportionately benefit families with household incomes above £45,000. By contrast, changes to the conditions for Universal Credit mean unpaid, parental care is further de-valued, and that parents of 3-year-olds on Universal Credit will now be obligated to work 30 hours a week – almost full-time – or face sanctions. It seems public money is only available for childcare when it is outsourced.
The 2023 Budget also has a deregulatory agenda. To partly make up for the increased funding gap, there are dangerous plans to increase child to adult ratios for 2-year-olds – which, if implemented, will make settings less safe and more inaccessible for disabled children. There are also financial incentives encouraging childminders to sign up through an agency. This is in keeping with trends over recent years which have seen moves to deregulate childminding. Private childminding agencies were introduced by the Department of Education in 2014 and mean that agency childminders are not individually inspected by an independent body. PACEY, the industry body representing childminders, have raised concerns about the agency model being less effective at ensuring high quality provision. Meanwhile, the latest announcement is likely to benefit shareholders of private childcare agencies, like the Prime Minister's wife."
– Louise O'Hare of Post Pandemic Childcare for We Own It, 20 April 2023
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