Thursday, 16 March 2023

Children are being left out of the childcare debate

Have we forgotten the child in the childcare debate? I’ve been haunted by that question ever since I wrote a feature for Prospect magazine on that very subject last year.

Short answer: yes!

In the lead up to the Budget there was wall-to-wall coverage of the childcare crisis in the UK and yet nobody was talking about the children whose care is at stake and what’s best for them. The entire narrative was about getting parents back to work and closing the gender pay gap. Once you notice that silence, it’s deafening.

I spoke to Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the Early Years Alliance, and he told me, “the child is right at the back of the agenda in everything coming forward at the moment”. That should raise alarm.

When Chancellor Jeremy Hunt made a huge childcare offer the centrepiece of his budget and said he was removing “the barriers to work” for “parents who have a child under three”, I saw the culmination of the logic. Are babies and small children merely barriers to work?

So I penned this opinion piece for the New Statesman, howling against the wind.