Universal, free childcare - is it a solution?

(328 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 01-Nov-12 21:55:00

This week, Mumsnet Blogger Mummyisagadgetgeek reports back from an event organized by the thinktank Progress on the subject of universal childcare. Should they win the next election, Labour are considering it as a possible policy - so we thought it would be good to find out what it was all about.

So: read her blog report from the event, tell us what you think here on the thread - and if you blog, let us know about it. We'll be tweeting posts next week.

OP’s posts: |
fatfloosie Fri 02-Nov-12 11:20:58

Free universal childcare completely undermines the value of the stay at home parent. It will lead to some parents feeling obliged to work long hours in rubbish jobs for the sake of family finances when they would much rather be with their children.

It is one thing to do a rewarding and interesting job with prospects while someone else looks after your children, quite another to do something menial.

Yet another labour policy that suits the middle classes but will have unfortunate consequences for the poorer.

OhGood Fri 02-Nov-12 11:41:07

For us, proper flexibility - where DH and I can work late/early shifts, and 2 days a week at home each - would go much further towards solving our problems with being working parents than free childcare would.

We both work in webby industries and there is no reason AT ALL except the status quo why this should not be possible.

I am about to interview for a role with central government. I am gearing up to have the flexibility conversation. I don't think they are going to take it very well.

YoungJoseph Fri 02-Nov-12 11:58:36

I agree with* fatfloosie*.
It's the cost of housing either to buy or rent that has the biggest impact on family choices about whether to work or not. I gave up my job in part because I had to travel about an hour to work everyday because housing near my job was so so expensive compared to my salary. So that's 2 hours unpaid for me requiring 2 hours of childcare.
Giving free childcare is just tinkering around the edges of a difficult financial situation.

Himalaya Fri 02-Nov-12 12:14:56

Isn't it a bit previous for this to be 'discussion of the day'? Its barely started.

kilmuir Fri 02-Nov-12 12:18:39

its not correct to say 'free' , if its paid by government then its come from taxes

matana Fri 02-Nov-12 12:49:06

For me it's the intent of the possible policy that strikes me as extremely positive, regardless of whether it's implemented, whether it's implemented partially, in full or whatever. It sends a clear message that working families are important. Since my DS was born (i was pregnant when the ConDems came to power) i have been astounded at the reckless and apparently relentless attack on children, parents and families generally in terms of finances. A double whammy when you consider that VAT was inreased at the same time and petrol costs have risen massively (DH and I both commute to work by car). First there was the Trust Fund cull (which, despite being heavily pregnant when the Government was elected, was taken away almost immediately prior to DS's birth). Then our Tax Credits were phased out which hit us hard with child care costs as DH and I work FT. And more recently all the talk about Child Benefit reductions. Every policy the current Government has implemented has seemed custom made to disadvantage the most vulnerable people in society the most. Incidentally, i do not consider myself particularly vulnerable, but i do care passionately about those who are in a much worse situation and struggling to survive. The fact that this is even being considered provides some welcome relief and a much needed light at the end of the tunnel for many families i am sure.

Treats Fri 02-Nov-12 12:49:19

flatfloosie - I don't quite understand what you're saying. Removing the cost of childcare from the equation will leave families much freer to organise their lives the way they want to. Currently, you either have to earn enough to pay for someone to look after your children or you HAVE to stay at home, even if you don't want to or don't think it's in the best long term interests of your family.

If the cost of childcare is not a factor, then you can use it and go out to work, or not use it and stay at home. I don't see why removing that cost would promote one choice over another - surely it equalises them?

I don't agree that the cost of housing is the 'biggest' impact on the decision whether to work or not. For us, it was personal preference, followed by whether we could afford the childcare.

SwitchedtoEatingCheese Fri 02-Nov-12 13:01:17

I can't imagine how this could ever work.
So what would the government do, shut down all private nurseries and childminders ? Or pay them directly? What hours would it cover? What about shift workers or people that work the weekend?
Oh and all these people who would now be able to go and find a job.. hmm yes one of the many, many jobs that are out there at the moment...

Bonsoir Fri 02-Nov-12 13:04:44

Free universal childcare? So children are raised by the state, not by their parents? Scary stuff.

FrothyOM Fri 02-Nov-12 13:05:49


halloweeneyqueeney Fri 02-Nov-12 13:08:15

Am I right in understanding that in countries where it is universally free, the provider is allocated and you have no choice about where your child goes?

morethanpotatoprints Fri 02-Nov-12 13:11:48


How would children be raised by the state? also if this is the case then surely now they are raised by nursery nurses and not parents.

Treats. What childcare are you referring to? Do you mesn the free 15 hours pre school because I don't know of any other that a sahp is entitled to.

Bonsoir Fri 02-Nov-12 13:16:46

Children are raised by the people that care for them for the majority of the time. The development of children in childcare 5 days a week for 10 hours a day is more strongly influenced by the childcare setting than by their parents. At least in a situation where parents pay and choose childcare, they have the (theoretical) option of choosing a setting that corresponds to their own values. Free state childcare won't do this.

halloweeneyqueeney Fri 02-Nov-12 13:19:30

"At least in a situation where parents pay and choose childcare, they have the (theoretical) option of choosing a setting that corresponds to their own values. Free state childcare won't do this"

I agree with this, mine has always been in childcare but IMO I AM raising him because I am deciding what sort of setting and what kind of experience he gets in the early years, and also by being a paying customer you can dictate a bit to the providers so that your child is minded as close to your way as possible.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 02-Nov-12 13:22:53


I don't think there would be any difference in the values that the settings would offer. Atm its hard to find somewhere that completely fills your ideals, from what I am led to believe.
Either way a child in any setting is strongly influenced by the setting and raised by the same staff whether they are employed by a private or public company.

halloweeneyqueeney Fri 02-Nov-12 13:27:54

There are many employees of the NHS (now don't get me wrong the NHS is ace overall) who do not see service users as consumers at all and even say that they should be glad of what ever they get because its free

I really don't see how child care settings wouldn't adopt the same attitude towards parents if you elimiated competition etc from the
equation by making them free.

Of course the dynamic would change! the dynamic in private Vs "free" health care is totally different

Bonsoir Fri 02-Nov-12 13:33:34

I am dead against state monopolies of anything, but the idea of a state monopoly of childcare sends shivers down my spine and turns my stomach.

UltraBOF Fri 02-Nov-12 13:36:53

You are a delicate flower, aren't you, Bonsoir grin. Universal state provision seemed to work jolly well for the NHS, until some fellow shudderers decided to dismantle it.

Bonsoir Fri 02-Nov-12 13:42:35

I'm a great fan of the NHS but (a) it has never worked jolly well (b) most of us, thank goodness, spend only microscopic portions of our lives confined within its institutions.

Not 50 hours per week in our most formative years.

MamaMary Fri 02-Nov-12 13:45:18

Of course it's a great vote-winner, but I'd love to know where the funding will come from. The blog post is extremely a bit vague on the details isn't it?

AuntieStella Fri 02-Nov-12 13:47:11

The child trust funds around for so short a time that I am somewhat taken aback that they could possibly have been seen as a normal action by the State. They, in particular, are emblematic of wasteful spending.

And of course the childcare isn't "free"

Either taxes go up, or other services will have to be cut.

And although those about to use childcare would desperately want childcare to be free, those who have just come out of many years of paying out of their own pocket (possibly working to break even or less) may feel very hard done by (both these groups having obvious cash-based self-interest in play).

There's no sensible way to try to take this forward without at least a stab at the cost, and how it will be met.

ivykaty44 Fri 02-Nov-12 13:47:31

Is this because the labour party don't trust the parents of UK to bring up there own children?

mummytime Fri 02-Nov-12 13:50:24

I have to agree with Bonsoir. Just look at how many people choose to HE in this country, I think you could easily double that for those who would want to opt out of "universal free child care". Most child care in this country is of a high standard, but most people also have some choice in the child care they use from Granny helping out, to a choice of child minders, to nurseries, to Nannies. If you don't like the setting you have chosen you can change.
Secondly just where are the legions of child care workers going to come from? How are they going to be trained? How well paid are they going to be? What kind of vetting? What about premises? Or rural areas?

I have seen child care in some other countries and it is not what I want for my children. I also wouldn't want to be one of those mothers who becomes extremely sad when they see a tourist with a small child, because they miss their own so much.

mummytime Fri 02-Nov-12 13:52:40

BTW I think it is actually a massive vote loser for the Labour Party.

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