Sure Start parent campaigners join unions to launch national childcare campaign

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A group of local parents who protested over cuts to children's centres in Manchester has joined forces with unions and voluntary organisations to launch a national childcare campaign.

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The group is holding a conference in Manchester next month to launch the National Childcare Campaign Network.

A decision to set up a network grew out of the National Sure Start Conference held in Manchester in January.

The group’s secretary John Clegg told Nursery World, ‘The initial impetus came from cuts to Sure Start children’s centres and the backlash from parents. We’ve now moved on from cuts to provision to looking at something more radical.’

He added, ‘One of the key things we are campaigning on is the level of inequality. Children from families on low to middle-incomes are less likely to have access to high-quality childcare and yet we have the highest childcare costs in the world.’

The group is calling for the next Government to set up a Childcare Commission to review childcare in the UK and to look at the feasibility of setting up a national not-for-profit high-quality childcare service that all children would have equal access to regardless of their family’s income.

They claim that the present childcare system is not based on equality, but is based on profit and want a freeze on fees during the current recession. Childcare costs should be set at a level that is a realistic proportion of household income, they say.

Campaigners are interested in looking at alternative childcare systems, particularly the way childcare is provided in Denmark.

A report presented at the conference will list a set of campaign priorities for the run-up to the general election in 2015.

Mr Clegg said that the Government’s own Childcare Commission, which is due to report this autumn, was ‘very narrow’ in focus.

The NCCN also acknowledges that low pay in the childcare workforce is a major issue.

They say that the relationship between rates of pay and the level of fees exposes the reliance of the current childcare system on low pay to maintain provision. ‘As providers struggle to provide a service and also make a profit it is the childcare workforce and the users of childcare who feel the full impact.’

The network is also calling for a a national body to set the terms, pay and conditions of all childcare workers to reflect their professional status and the value of their work from both a social and economic perspective.

The campaign’s supporters include the union Unite, the North West TUC, Greater Manchester Association of Trade Union Councils and the Child Poverty Action Group.

Speakers at the conference on 10 November include Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of Unite, Carolyn Jones from the Institute of Employment Rights, parent and Sure Start campaigner Joanne McCann and Graham Witham, the UK poverty adviser from Save the Children.

Helen Osgood, equalities officer from Unite North West region, said, ‘Women have been at the forefront of the campaigns to stop cuts to Sure Start centres and childcare services caused by the Coalition Government’s austerity measures. Because of the scandalous costs of childcare in the UK, which are are among the highest in the world, over 32,000 women have been forced out of work over the last 12 months and with over one million women currently unemployed many are unable to take up work because of the high cost of childcare.’

  • The conference, which is free to attend, will be held on 10 November at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester. For more details email John Clegg at nccn2go@gmail.com

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