Child's Play  

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Sept 2002
New Mutual Models for Childcare
Speaking at the launch of Mutuo’s recent report ‘Child’s Play – New mutual models for childcare’, Stephen Burke, Director of the Daycare Trust commented, ‘Social enterprises have a key role to play in developing new childcare services.’  The report looks at pilot schemes in the UK and shows that social enterprises are among the most successful methods for providing childcare for both socially excluded and affluent families.  New stakeholder models could hold the key to affordable, high quality provision for all. But there is a desperate shortage of childcare places.  That’s why the Government launched its National Childcare Strategy in 1998.
Despite some progress, the demand for places still far exceeds supply.  There is still only 1 place for every 7 children under 8yrs.  It’s worse in rural areas with only 33 places per 1000 children.  Even if they can find a place, parents in this country still face the highest childcare bills in the Europe .  The average cost of a nursery place is about £6.200 pa rising to over £7.500 pa in Inner London.  Families on low incomes are often priced out of the market.  However, they are often those in the greatest need.  Affordable childcare is an essential ingredient in any scheme for community regeneration.  Without it, disadvantaged parents can neither get a job nor have access to appropriate training.  They are locked into a poverty trap.
In the report, Burke examines the effects of various Government initiatives including the Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiative, the Sure Start programmes and the Working Families Tax Credit.  The National Childcare Strategy has been a good start.  However childcare care should be seen as part of an overall political agenda.  Because they are locally based, community-owned businesses are particularly suited to providing childcare services.  They also boost the local economy by providing jobs and training opportunities.  The author calls upon the Government to actively encourage the development of these social enterprises.
The report looks at several methods of delivery including a new initiative by the Oxford , Swindon and Gloucester Co-op (a large regional consumer co-op) to provide childcare to its members and customers.  A survey of several schemes in London is provided by Social Enterprise London.  These include an initiative by the Family Housing Association in Hammersmith, a school based scheme in Mark’s Gate and an informal community nursery on the Copenhagen Estate in Islington.  But social enterprises are businesses.  So the report rounds off with a very useful discussion on structures and constitutions from Cobbetts a leading law firm with long connections with mutual businesses and the co-operative movement
Looking to the longer term, our aim should be that childcare centres, homework clubs, ‘Dawn to Dusk’ community centres and the like are regarded as a public good in the same way as we now look at schools, public libraries and other services.  This report shows the way forward.

Child’s Play – New mutual models for childcare

Edited by Stephen Hogan and Jean Whitehead

Published by     £10

 
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This article was published in Chartist Magazine Sept/Oct 2002

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