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IPPR research shows opposition

Independent research by the IPPR, funded by PACEY, has shown that childminders are overwhelmingly against government proposals to increase child:adult ratios.

Initial findings, released as the Deputy Prime Minister expressed his concern over plans to change childcare ratios, have shown that:

PPR’s survey of over 1,000 childminders shows:

  • Three quarters (74%) of childminders say that they won’t increase the number of children they care for 
  • 79% of those won’t because they think the quality of care will suffer and 68% saying it would pose a safety risk to children
  • If childminders did increase the number of children they cared for, they think it wouldn’t cut costs for parents. 93% think it would have no effect, 5% think they would increase what they charged to parents, and only 1.48% think they would decrease the charge to parents.

Dalia Ben-Galim, IPPR Associate Director, said, “Nick Clegg has joined the chorus of concerned childminders, nursery providers and parents who are unconvinced by Liz Truss’ proposals that relaxing child ratios will improve quality or drive down costs.

“In a new survey of childminders we found that 74% won’t increase the number of children they care for, and 79% of those won’t because they think the quality of care will suffer, with 68% saying it would pose a safety risk to children.

“Liz Truss argues that ratios are looser in other European countries, especially France. But this is because the qualifications attained by the early years workforce in France are generally higher. So using ratios as an indicator for costs is limited given the different levels and status of qualifications. It is a real stretch to suggest that slightly looser ratios will lead to lower prices and higher salaries.

“Nick Clegg’s reservations on ratios are welcome and suggest that there is genuine concern on how to best improve child outcomes. But there are other parts of the Government’s childcare package where he should also be sceptical, namely proposals on tax relief. 

“Working parents will be eligible to claim up to £1200 tax-free voucher to pay for childcare costs. But tax relief is regressive, skewed towards higher income families. At a cost of around £1 billion and with no guarantee that providers will not raise their costs accordingly, IPPR has long argued that this money would be better spent investing in early years services, widening access and controlling costs.”

Catherine Farrell, PACEY's Joint Chief Executive, said, "It’s great to see that at long last some parts of Government are finally listening to the legitimate concerns of parents and childcare professionals.

"Members of PACEY - childminders, nannies and nursery workers - have continually voiced concerns that changing ratios will damage the quality of care children receive, regardless of the qualification level of staff. In simple terms the more children you have to look after the less individual attention you can give them.

"PACEY has been lobbying for months to convince Liz Truss to rethink childcare proposals. In addition to the discussion about ratios, there are many more proposals that the Department for Education is planning that are causing concern for the sector. In particular the introduction of childminder agencies, an increasingly narrow definition of what it means for a child to be school ready, and the removal of local authority responsibility to provide training and information to registered providers.

"We believe all of these proposals will be to the detriment of the quality of care our youngest children receive. Despite months of discussion, the Department for Education seems unwilling to listen and has yet to present a clear rationale for why these changes are needed. PACEY is yet to see any evidence that they will improve the quality of care children receive or reduce costs for families.”