**NEWSFLASH** Results from our survey of settings which piloted the free entitlement for two year olds are now in. Click here to read about the results in more detail. **
It is now over a year since we launched the FREE Childcare campaign in response to the new coalition Government’s decision to go ahead with the Code of Practice governing the provision of ‘Free Entitlement’. At that time our goal was to force a review of the Code of Practice by the Government, to allow more flexibility for providers and ultimately greater parental choice and quality. If you wish to find out more about the reasons behind the launch, take a look at our “Why is this campaign necessary” news article.
It has been a year of great achievement in many ways; we succeeded in securing a great deal of press coverage as well as a television slot on BBC South East News. We met with the Department for Education and the Children’s Minister Sarah Teather. Many of our supporters have been in contact with their local MPs to highlight the issue of ‘Free Entitlement’ and MP Zac Goldsmith launched an Early Days Motion (EDM) to show his support.
In February 2011 we believed we were finally getting some traction when the government announced they were to review the Code of Practice. Despite promising to consult with the PVI sector, once again our concerns failed to be taken into account both in terms of involvement in the review and it’s final outcome. Whilst the review had yet to be concluded, in March 2011 the Children’s Minister firmly shut the door on any further discussion around top-ups when she announced “We’re absolutely clear that making parents pay to access their free entitlement would be an insurmountable financial barrier for many families”.
Since we started the campaign many providers have approached us for support with the challenges they face in remaining sustainable. The sad fact of the matter is that the government’s continued refusal to accept the very real problem that ‘Free Entitlement’ poses for providers means that a number of settings have already had to close their doors, thus impacting significantly on the very children to whom the initiative is supposed to be making childcare accessible.
The objectives of this campaign have always been to ensure that all childcare is:
- FREE from the risks to quality
- FREE from the threats to sustainability
- FREE from the impact on flexibility
The recent changes to the economic climate are impacting on businesses nationwide, not least our industry sector. This situation has encouraged us to examine many of the factors that impinge on our ability to practice and deliver great quality childcare. Factors such as the challenges of recruiting a graduate calibre workforce, and the PVI sector’s VAT exempt status (which means that although we have to pay VAT we aren’t able to reclaim it). You can read more about one nursery manager’s campaign on this issue here.
Whilst we accept that the battle to make ‘Free Entitlement’ work for both parents and childcarers has yet to be won, it is time that we widen our scope and start to campaign on all issues that prevent us being free to really make ‘Every Child Matter’, essentially freeing our childcare from unreasonable bureaucracy and legislation.
We hope that you will continue to support us. Please add your voice to ours. Click on the petition link and add your name to the list of providers and parents who support a review of the Code of Practice. And if Freeing our Childcare matters to you bookmark this page and visit often.