There are 2 reasons why I have come to question the Government's approach to "helping" parents. The first was because I attended an event recently at the DfE regarding the government's proposals to set up childminder agencies, which I can only really describe as a shambles.
More on that another day. And secondly it comes off the back of the government's announcement to offer childcare vouchers to parents. In both cases, the devil is in the detail, or to be more precise the lack of detail.
Whenever proposals are put forward by Government, I often wonder who on earth they spoke to when coming up with their ideas. For example, when it comes to the idea of setting up childminder agencies, and reducing the ratios so childminders can look after more children, I can't believe they asked a large cross section of childminders if they wanted that!
Childminders are none too happy
You just have to see the number of campaigns against this to realise that childminders are none too happy with these proposals.
I'm sure that the principle behind most of what the Government is trying to do with childcare is probably sound. I don't think there is a parent out there, or a childcarer, who wouldn't want better quality care for children, and so the Government is right to make that a priority. But reducing ratios so there are less carers to the number of children in some ways seems to be the exact opposite of what they want to achieve.
And so to the announcement about a new tax free childcare scheme. Reducing the cost of childcare for parents is a great idea. So why are we waiting until 2015 for this to happen? There is an immediate need for financial help for parents. And I'm confused, as I think many are, about what this means for the childcare vouchers offered currently by employers to their employees. Looks like this will be phased out.
But where is the detail?
We will consult, they say, and then provide the detail. It does seem a really odd way to do things. Wouldn't you first consult about the idea and then make an announcement, when you've thought it through a bit more, spoken to the right people, and can actually provide more detail about the proposal?
On a positive note, there was one great bit of news from George - that small employers won't have to pay the first £2000 of Employer's NICs.
However we are again waiting for the detail, and whether this will apply to families employing nannies (as previous NI incentives have only been open to businesses not private employers). We are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that the devil won't be in the detail this time.
Amanda Coxen, Working Mum and Tinies Director