England’s poor childcare

No, not a story reviving the spectre of the single mother, the stereotypical young mum blamed for everything by the tabloid press and the Tories in days gone by… it’s an article on the costs and inequities of childcare services.

From the Morning Star, a quality tabloid:

Poorer families denied decent child care
(Wednesday 27 August 2008)

TRADE unions demanded a major expansion of childcare provision on Wednesday after school inspectors raised concerns that families in poorer areas of England lacked access to quality care facilities.

The quality of childcare differs dramatically between areas, with provision worse in places with the most poverty and social deprivation, according to a three-year study by school regulator Ofsted.

In the 30 most deprived local authorities, nearly half of childcare facilities were described as “not good enough,” compared with 40 per cent nationally.

In Hackney, east London, just 29 per cent of childminders were judged to be good or better, compared to the leafy suburb of Wokingham in Berkshire where the proportion is 81 per cent.

“Children and families living in areas already experiencing relative deprivation therefore face further inequity because they have less access to high-quality childcare provision,” the report warned.

Despite improvements over the past three years, four out of 10 childminders and daycare groups still rank as “satisfactory” or “inadequate,” categories that inspectors said signal the need to improve.

Only 3 per cent of England’s daycare nurseries were judged to be outstanding.

The most serious problems identified by the report, which covered 90,000 inspections, included staff shortages, lack of proper training and nurseries with no first-aid kits.

A spokeswoman for public-sector union UNISON said: “Once again, children from deprived areas are losing out.

“UNISON is campaigning for major expansion of childcare provision. We need quality care, delivered by properly trained and fairly paid childcare workers.”

Fellow union GMB equality and inclusion officer Kamaljeet Jandu branded the figures “frightening,” adding: “This should be a wake-up call to government to improve standards and provide training for people working with children in this sector. ”

Childcare charity Daycare Trust official Maxine Hill said: “Even one childminder providing poor care is one too many.

“Disadvantaged children have much to gain from receiving high-quality childcare and every effort should be made to improve quality.”

The Daycare Trust warned that childcare costs for pre-school children in England continued to rise above the rate of inflation, with most parents complaining about lack of affordable childcare in their area.