The case for the role of co-operatives in childcare

Dr Éoin Clarke argues, on cost and fairness grounds, for an increased role for co-operatives in childcare.

By Dr Éoin Clarke

Labour Left are in the process of developing policies that we wish to be included in the 2015 Labour manifesto. These policies centre around making living standards more affordable in the areas of childcare, public transport, housing, wages and energy provision. A collection of our ideas will be presented on November 2nd 2011 when we launch our Red Book; today, we wish to outline our case for shrinking the role of profit making companies in the provision of childcare.

The data below is based upon today’s Department for Education release on childcare provision.

Bright Horizons” currently own 135 crèches in the UK and operate a turnover of $200m a year. This ‘for profit’ company is American owned, operating more than 600 centres worldwide. We in Labour Left argue that private companies in general have too big a share in the UK childcare market.

Fifty nine per cent of childcare providers are private profiteers. We are going to make the case for co-operatives to play a larger part in the sector. In order to do this we wish to outline the poor value that private providers offer parents.

In the current economic climate, can the average family afford an extra £910 a year just to send their child for 25 hours a week to a private crèche? If the voluntary sector is able to provide it at a full £1,040 cheaper, then the state has a duty to boost that sector as much as in possible.  It is not just the higher cost per hour that private companies charge, they also are more likely to charge the parents registration fees and deposits.

Given the fact that about 30% of crèche places are unfilled, the practice of charging parents deposits and registration fees to book their children into a care provider is deeply unethical.

And it is a fact that profit-making childcare providers are much more likely to engage in the practice. As well as expanding the voluntary sector, the government should also seek to ban registration fees for crèches. But these are not the only problems that parents face. The growing cost of childcare is also an issue. All of this data is based upon 2010 data but prices are climbing.

More that two thirds of providers have increased their prices in the last year, this comes at a time when the government are cutting by 10% the amount of childcare fees they will cover for low income families. That said, the families that receive state support with childcare only account for about 20% of the total number of children receiving these services. Eighty per cent of families have to struggle with these costs by themselves.

Read more about Labour Left’s vision for Co-Operative Childcare

See also:

Universal children’s services must be part of the state’s duty to familiesAndrew Harrop, September 22nd 2011

Childcare double whammy: help is cut as costs soarFelicity Dennistoun, September 8th 2011

Could childcare cuts be the Coalition’s 10p tax?Will Straw, March 22nd 2011

Childcare rebellion growsWill Straw, November 13th 2009

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