Editor’s view - Great Expectations
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Does a new children’s minister mean that the early years sector can hope for stronger understanding and support?
Goodbye Vicky Ford, hello Will Quince. I get the feeling that not too many people in the early years sector will be lamenting the departure of the former as children’s minister (see who’s who on page 6). She will forever be associated with the bleak era of lockdowns and the Government’s lack of clarity on furlough, funding, test and trace and more.
Just at the beginning of September, she succeeded in offending sector sensibilities. When challenged in the Commons about the dip in Ofsted-registered childcarers, she dismissed concerns as ‘largely driven by childminders and carers’. Understandably this casual disrespect for a vital part of the workforce went down like the proverbial lead balloon.
Confidence in children’s ministers has inevitably been dented by their rapid turnover during the years. The briefest tenure was that of Kemi Badenoch, who was appointed in July 2019 and was replaced by Vicky Ford eight months later. Now, Badenoch is minister for the newly named Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. It is an aspiration that should be applied to early education.
So who is Will Quince and what can we expect? Formerly minister for welfare delivery, he has been responsible for Universal Credit and has fielded his fair share of brickbats to do with its problems. The current system of claiming childcare costs through Universal Credit continues to be widely criticised for causing distress and debt for many parents and placing cashflow pressure on struggling providers.
Now with the imminent withdrawal of the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit, low- to middle-income families are facing a tough winter.
One hopes that Quince’s experience and insights into families’ situations will serve him well in his new role. We need a minister in possession of all the facts, who can speak to the sector appropriately and with the respect it deserves. Surely that’s not too much to ask?