Interview - Deborah Lawson, general secretary of Voice

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Voice, the union for education professionals, is leading the Regulation Matters campaign, calling for the registration and regulation of all home childcarers, including nannies, maternity nurses, doulas and au pairs.


What are the key early years issues that Voice is campaigning on this year?

Voice will continue to campaign on behalf of our early years members to promote improvement across the sector, ensuring that the early years workforce is not overlooked, and that its voice is heard in response to the anticipated recommendations of the Childcare Commission and the Nutbrown Review, for example. We anticipate that we will be very busy with the early years sector this year.

You launched the Regulation Matters campaign in October - how is the campaign going?

I am pleased to say that it is progressing well and gaining momentum. Since Voice, Chiltern College, Morton Michel, Nannytax and The Association of Nanny Agencies launched the campaign in October, it has gained the support of several other significant national and international organisations, including BAPN (British Association of Professional Nannies), the National Children's Bureau, Norland College and REC (The Recruitment and Employment Confederation).

A meeting has been requested with education and childcare minister Elizabeth Truss, and a meeting with the shadow minister, Sharon Hodgson, takes place this month. The first action taken this year was to send a letter to the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, highlighting the campaign's main concerns.

What action would you like to see the Government's Childcare Commission take, when it reports later this month?

We understand and appreciate the affordability issues of parents and providers in the current economic climate. However, affordability must not compromise the quality of care or the safety of children, or jeopardise their welfare and future education. Neither should it be at the expense of the workforce.

Many assumptions are being made about the report, some of which are alarming. The level of speculation surrounding staff-child ratios is an example. Reducing ratios, we are led to believe, will increase staff wages. Of course, this is also likely to result in a reduced workforce that has to gain higher levels of qualification and work harder to secure that salary.

And the Government's response to the Nutbrown review?

We support the Nutbrown Review and would like to see the investment needed to produce a high-quality early years workforce and a robust qualifications framework which supports a career and salary structure.

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