Tell us about your background and experience.
I’m excited to bring the experience I have from policy-making and government relations, at both a national and local level, to the work that’s already being done here at NDNA.
My policy background is quite varied, covering financial regulation, policing, consumer rights and safeguarding issues including domestic abuse, but every day I’m learning more about the sector and the people working in it.
I’ve also spent two years working in the Middle East for child rights and health NGOs on projects with refugee children.
You've worked for some well-known Government figures. What did you learn from working on the inside in Westminster?
I’ve worked with Andy Burnham when he was health secretary and shadow education secretary as well as civil servants and regulators, and I’ll be bringing the experience and knowledge from successful policy campaigns to my role at NDNA. However, the main strength of any campaign is the passion of the people you bring with you. For me it will be really important to support members to make the case for policies and approaches which allow them to get on with doing what they do best.
Having worked with Stella Creasy MP on getting the Government to change the law on debt and payday lenders such as Wonga, I know that the task of getting policy-makers to see the scale of an issue and act on it can seem really daunting. The setbacks can be frustrating, but the reward of achieving the change you wanted to make, and knowing the benefits that will come from it, makes it all worthwhile.
What do you think are the key challenges for nurseries?
Attending NDNA’s conference this year I’ve already learned a lot from members, practitioners, owners and early years experts about the issues facing the sector. While the policy environment is different in England, Scotland and Wales, some things are universal. Financial pressures are increasing and it’s becoming more difficult to recruit and retain staff, which affects nurseries’ ability to continue to offer the quality service they strive for.
All this comes back to funding for the childcare policies in each country. Where funded places are promised by the Government, it has to back this up with the money to pay for them. All of NDNA’s surveys and research with members shows that it’s not.
What policy areas and projects will you be working on in the next few months?
With the Autumn Budget just around the corner, an immediate focus for NDNA in England will be the impact of business rates on nurseries. NDNA have successfully lobbied for relief in Scotland and Wales, so we’ll be calling on the Government and local authorities in England to recognise the impact of this unfair tax on nurseries. We’re supporting a member petition to Parliament urging the Government to abolish it. The first anniversary of the 30 hours policy is upon us and so NDNA will be continuing to make the case that, without proper funding for the places being promised to parents, the policy is in danger of collapse.
In the longer term we want to see the bureaucracy around childcare cut for both nurseries and parents, putting all funding streams for childcare into one pot through a proposed Childcare Passport.