The coalition government gave us More Good Childcare; now they have failed to excite again with today’s launch of More Affordable Childcare.

Childcare is in crisis. Parents are struggling with rising childcare costs and the number of childcare places is falling as children’s centres, nurseries and childminders close despite the growing number of young children.

But the consultation report doesn’t provide any hope for parents that affordable childcare is on its way.

Instead the report regurgitates details of the tax-free scheme for working families to be phased in from Autumn 2015 and support with childcare costs within Universal Credit from April 2016 – all too little to late.

The report also promises new legislation to introduce a new childcare registration system. It continues the case put forward in More Great Childcare to remove staff to child ratios and staff qualification requirements for providers of wraparound care for children in full-time education.

The report also sets out proposals to increase the threshold for Ofsted registration for informal childcare from two to three hours of care per day.

Finally in its feeble attempt to increase the amount of affordable provision on offer the report looks to schools for the answer. The government believes schools could extend their opening hours and share school sites with childcare providers. This ignores the fact that schools are already struggling with capacity because of the rising birth rate.

However the report does tie up some loose ends and promises new legislation;

Local authorities currently fund early years education following the code of practice guidance which gives them the autonomy to decide where to fund places. Amended legislation will mean that local authorities cannot refuse to fund a place as long as the provider is graded good or outstanding by Ofsted, including childminders.

All in all, the new report doesn’t address the problems parents face right now - access to quality affordable childcare. Moreover the consultation comes during the summer holiday period.

In summary, it doesn’t provide the lifeline that is needed or a real tangible solution to the issue of more affordable childcare. 16 July 2013

Many local authorities are struggling to find sufficient childcare places for two year olds while in lots of areas parents are having difficulty accessing free places for their three and four year olds.

Of course the answer to this dilemma could be childminders.

But Liz Truss, the Education Minister with responsibility for early years and childcare, and the Department of Education have made a gaffe.

The current code of practice which sets out the criteria for the administration of early years funding states that only childminders who are attached to a childminding network are eligible for the funding.

However, More Great Childcare proposes that all childminders, as long as they are graded good or outstanding by Ofsted, can deliver the early years offer.

Yet local authorities are dithering because the current funding is tied to the code of practice. Some are advising childminders that they cannot place two year olds with them or point three and four year olds in their direction because councils are bound by the code of practice.

What a shambles. How can childminders be expected to run their business in this way? It’s like saying to a retailer, keep your shop open and we may have customers for you in September but can’t guarantee anything.

Of course we also know More Great Childcare advocates childminder agencies. Are the delaying tactics just a ploy to get more childminders interested in joining an agency?

The situation needs to be sorted out immediately. Good and outstanding rated childminders could provide early years places and provide an alternative offer for parents but childminders must be advised sooner rather than later if they are to sustain their businesses. 5 July 2013

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