'An industry-wide overview is needed'

Brian Jenkins, managing director of Jubilee Day Nursery, Reading
Monday, September 21, 2015

One nursery owner shares his thoughts on the Call for Evidence and funding review.

Nearly a decade has elapsed since the Government carried out a life-changing review of the childcare funding for this country. This time around the Government may have taken a wrong turn, albeit well intentioned, by issuing their call for evidence directly to the whole of the childcare industry.

The vast bulk of providers fall into the category of 20 to 60 childcare place nurseries, with this being further supplemented by a substantial number of child carers and charity run units.  Run off their feet with their dedication to the business of looking after the children in their care, they are already dealing with the onerous burden of invoicing clients, paying bills, admin and the necessary bureaucratic need of insuring high standards of childcare and of course the further and continuing training of staff. This is without the practical considerations of maintenance of property and all other incidental issues of running a business.  It leaves no time to give the necessary, competent response to the government request for evidence of costs. 

Regardless of the importance of this issue it inevitably will take second place to all of the above matters with what we expect will be a very low response rate. Consider also that the skill set of the majority of childcare management and staff will seldom embrace accountancy – which is then a ‘bought-in commodity’.

To give due diligence to the ‘Call for Evidence’ an industry-wide overview and an accounts based response is needed. It is really only the childcare chains and the larger childcare organisations that can afford to respond properly to the ‘Call for Evidence’.  Bearing in mind the commercial confidentiality that the government is calling to be breeched then the obviously conflict of interest surfaces.

To obtain the information to base, what amounts to a pivotal 15-year review of childcare costs we believe that best interest would be served by creating a team combined of a small cross-section of skilled people from the industry, together with Government officials, tasked with the job of evaluation of the whole maze of costs that need to be included to set the childcare business on a secure and solid foundation for the next substantial period of years. This needs to be treated as an urgent issue.

Already there is fear within the industry that unless this is a realistic and correct cost evaluation, supported by the election manifesto promise of David Cameron for the money to be made available, then the introduction of a change to 30 hours, instead of 15 hours, of free entitlement, could bankrupt the vulnerable smaller nurseries and decimate the childcare skill-set that this country relies upon to keep its workforce in place. 

Then consider the huge change of ‘minimum wage’ costs versus ‘living wage’ costs and the word fear takes on another level.  If the Government evaluation is flawed expect explosive results.

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