Sector fury over TV show's claims of free hours money grabbing

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A TV programme has sparked outrage among the sector after its presenter claimed providers offering the funded hours are ‘running into the sunset with taxpayers’ cash’.


Matthew Wright, presenter of The Wright Stuff, has angered the sector with his comments

During a discussion on whether the 30 hours are really needed on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff yesterday, presenter Matthew Wright claimed that childcare providers are ‘sucking up the free money’, and that they do ‘very well’ from the funding.

The discussion was in response to a report from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which calls for the free entitlement, tax-free childcare, the EYFS and regulations - including ratios, to be done away with as they have driven up childcare costs for parents.

Matthew Wright went on to say, ‘I wonder whether we should throw the whole policy out and scrap it, or if there is a way of subsidising childcare to help parents, but not allow childminders and nurseries to run into the sunset with bags of taxpayers’ cash.’

A follow-up phone-in on the subject this morning, provoked by comments from the sector on social media about the TV presenter’s ‘startling ignorance of the issues’, further angered nurseries, childminders and early years organisations after Matthew Wright suggested ‘loosening’ ratios to bring down childcare costs.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), who called in to the show, said, ‘We were pleased to be able to go on The Wright Stuff and set the record straight.

‘Many members had been concerned at the lack of facts in yesterday’s discussion so it was important to put the true picture across.

‘Although Matthew Wright didn’t want to admit he was wrong, I raised awareness of how many nurseries are struggling to balance their books in the face of chronic under-funding and rising business costs.

‘It was great to see a lot of support from nurseries and parents, judging by the comments on social media about the show, who were concerned by Mr Wright taking his role of devil’s advocate rather too seriously.’

Nurseries and childminders reacted on Facebook and Twitter, praising Ms Tanuku for standing up for the sector.

Writing on Facebook, Catherine Rundall Newman said, 'I have written in to NDNA to say that I thought Purnima Tanuku spoke with class and kept a very dignified stance throughout being shouted down on by a bully boy.... she didn't lose her rag and is an assett to us individuals in early years.... just a shame she wasn't able to actually speak!'

@ljmmuk said, ‘Congrats for keeping your dignity in the face of Matthew Wright’s rudeness.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, also criticised The Wright Stuff.

He said, ‘The childcare discussions on The Wright Stuff today and yesterday are prime examples of what happens when people express an opinion on something they clearly know nothing about.

‘Anyone with even the most basic level of knowledge about the early years sector knows that the reason childcare fees are so high is because, for several years now, Government funding has not kept up with the costs of delivery. For far too long, the early years sector has had to deal not only with inadequate funding and some of the lowest wages in any employment sector, but also with the inaccurate portrayal of childcare providers as greedy and money-grabbing, fleecing struggling parents for all they’re worth.

‘The suggestion that early years providers are “running off into the sunset with bags of taxpayers’ cash” might be funny if it wasn’t so grossly inaccurate and offensive, and it’s telling that Matthew Wright acknowledged how ridiculous this statement was on today’s show. The fact is that the only reason we have a functioning early years sector in this country is the goodwill of providers. For the thousands of practitioners working on low wages, and often several hours a week unpaid, ill-informed comments like the ones made on the show are yet another kick in the teeth.

‘Today’s argument – that ratios are the answer – was just as ill-informed. Both the sector and parents have been clear that saving money through cutting childcare ratios is not acceptable, so to suggest that this, rather than adequate funding, is the answer to the childcare problem demonstrates a mind-boggling level of ignorance on this issue.

‘Having worked in the early years for several years now, I couldn’t be prouder of the passion, dedication and integrity that the sector has shown as it has continued to fight to deliver high-quality childcare and early education in the most difficult of circumstances.’

  • Read the viewpoint of one of the IEA report's authors here
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