A Childcare Infrastructure Fund

Protecting early years provision in England

Spending on quality, accessible childcare is an investment in essential social infrastructure, with long-term benefits for the economy and society. First, it helps to close the attainment gap between children from low-income families and their more advantaged peers, reducing inequalities and creating benefits that last throughout a child’s time in school, and beyond. Second, it removes barriers to employment, particularly for women, who are still disproportionately responsible for unpaid care. The UK has consistently performed poorly on both quality and access of childcare provision, therefore failing both of these functions.

The UK’s childcare sector has been crushed by Covid-19 due to inadequate government support through lockdown closures. In the short-term this is preventing key workers, and those who are unable to work from home, from accessing the childcare they need. In the longer term, there is a serious risk that there will be mass redundancies and many childcare providers will be unable to reopen. This will deepen both financial and educational inequalities, while slowing the recovery from the pandemic.

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) proposes the creation of a Childcare Infrastructure Fund (CIF) to sustain the childcare sector and its workforce. This would be a direct payment for all Ofsted-registered providers to cover all staff salaries (whilst raising them to the real Living Wage) and other essential overheads in order to maintain continuity of care and protect this essential infrastructure. In return, providers will be obliged to provide free childcare to all parents who are key workers, or who are required to return to their workplace as social distancing measures are unwound, and to protect against redundancies in the childcare workforce.

Image: Pexels

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