Interview: Anand Shukla, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust

Monday, December 15, 2014

Anand Shukla is leaving in February to lead Brightside, a young people's education and mentoring charity

What are the major changes that you have seen in your five years at the Family and Childcare Trust?

I joined the Trust in 2009 as business director before becoming chief executive in 2010. While it was very clear Labour were very committed to investing in childcare, we still needed to see what the approach of a new Government would be.

A key moment was the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review. The sector as a whole should be proud that at a time of economic austerity childcare was seen as a national priority.

When I joined, the Trust was just about making the case for childcare. Now all the parties know that and the case is now about how you structure the funding. In the early 90s, there were only 50,000 childcare places, now there are 1.5 million. It's revolutionary. The political parties differ on how to invest but there's clear agreement on its importance.

What do you think needs reforming?

We've made progress but we need a system that works for families. Half of local authorities don't have enough childcare, but the statistics on quality are going in the right direction. As a Trust we're campaigning for 20 hours of childcare a week for three-and four-year-olds, then twos.

We're calling for simplification of the system and a childcare funding review. It's confusing for parents - free entitlement, tax credits, employer-supported childcare. We've done a lot of research on different systems across the world. Where you have high-quality childcare, the funding goes through the supply-side. I'm very keen on that model.

What is your greatest concern?

All the focus has been on ratios and childminder agencies, which has taken the debate away from local authorities. Personally, I think agencies were a modest proposal with modest disadvantages.

Local authorities need to be given a clear mandate by Government for ongoing quality assurance. Another area is childminders and their numbers. They provide flexible childcare for families and they need to be paid a decent amount.

We led a cross-party report on childcare for disabled children and the findings are shocking. In response to this, there will be more funding in the voluntary grant programme, but we need to keep up the momentum.

What do you think the future holds?

I would be very disappointed if in five or ten years' time we didn't have a system that looked more like primary school, where you have 30 hours a week of childcare for twoto four-year-olds, but it would need proper funding. Twenty years ago people would have laughed at 180,000 places for twos. The sector deserves huge credit.

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