Back on the 26th May a person called Joeli Brearley who is shown here set out this petition to send to the Government with the title “Commission an independent review of childcare funding and affordability” which seems like a very sensible call to come from people who are struggling to address the childcare funding which has been the case for many years in our nation. In the first seven days after she had produced the petition it had achieved 32,000 signatures and in the next seven days it reached 105,000 signatures so within two weeks this petition had set out a request from the Government and Parliament to respond to the petition. The current number of signatures is over 113,000. The text for the petition is
We have the second most expensive childcare system in the world. A full time place costs, on average, £14,000 per year, making it completely unaffordable for many families. Parents are forced to leave their jobs or work fewer hours, which has a negative impact on the economy and on child poverty.
Childcare workers are paid so badly that 1 in 10 are officially living in poverty. Meanwhile, a lack of funding has resulted in 2,087 childcare settings closing in England in the first 3 months of 2021 when provision was already low. Without good quality, affordable childcare the ‘levelling up’ agenda will fail. An independent review would explore what the Government needs to do to ensure we have a childcare sector that works for families, children and the economy.
The response from the Government came out a month later on the 23rd June stating at the beginning
The Government is not currently planning a review of the childcare system. Support is available to help with childcare costs, and the Government monitors the sustainability of childcare providers.
The following sentence explains
We know that the cost of childcare is a key concern for parents which is why the government has made an unprecedented investment in childcare over the past decade.
This is of course totally ignoring the details in the petition which by the time they responded to it 110,000 people had endorsed it. Although the 100,000 level was achieved on the 7th June (two weeks earlier than the Government response) the opportunity for this to be discussed in Parliament did not occur until Monday and it can be read here. There were a number of MPs that took part and then after their comments the response from the Department for Education came from Vicky Ford whose first sentences was
I would like to begin by congratulating Catherine McKinnell on securing this important debate on childcare.
And she certainly stated some positive words but then she stated
As hon. Members know, we are already working on a multi-year spending review. In the Department for Education, we are absolutely continuing to press the importance of early years care and education right across Government as part of that spending review. Given that we are in the middle of spending review negotiations, it would not be appropriate to launch a separate independent review of childcare at this time because the outcomes of such a review would not be able to feed into the speeding review that is happening right now. We expect the outcome of the spending review to be announced later this year.
After Vicky Ford had finished speaking Catherine McKinnell then stated
I thank the Minister for that response, but I fear that the more than 112,000 petitioners who signed the petition would disagree with her assessment that there is not a problem to address. Indeed, Joeli Brearley of Pregnant Then Screwed and the 12 organisations that supported the in-depth research and survey of the parent and provider experience of the childcare system would disagree with the Minister’s assessment.
A little while later she stated
With the greatest of respect, I think that petitioners listening to the Minister’s response will feel that hers is an alternative reality, an alternative universe, from the one that they are living in. Parents and providers are struggling. Early years staff are undervalued and underpaid. Childcare is becoming a big political issue, and it will not go away any time soon.
The tragedy is the Government are not committed to resolving this issue which has been a challenge for many years.