Sunday, 8 June 2008

Nursery childcare: entitlement or perk?

A quick train of thoughts.

The Financial Times reports that "increases in nursery fees have continued to race ahead of consumer price inflation, increasing the burden on working parents." The government says that tax credits make childcare affordable; the Daycare Trust say they are so complicated that they are often not claimed.

The Guardian reports that Caroline Spelman, the Conservative Party's chairwoman, paid Tina Haynes, her children's nanny, out of her parliamentary expenses. Ms Spelman and Ms Haynes have subsequently told the BBC that the expenses only paid for secretarial work undertaken when the children were at school.

Both these stories say something about how childcare is seen in England. Even the fairly well-off find it difficult to afford. Poorer families usually don't even have a chance, because of the complexity of the tax credit system.

It's not as if lots of nursery nurses are getting rich. Looking after babies and young children, and giving them a decent early education is hard work, complex and costly. It cannot be done well through a mix of private enterprise and tax credits; nor does it seem to qualify as either a legitimate expense or a perk.