Stella Creasy has claimed victory in her attempts to get the Government to clarify that childcare outside education settings should be seen as infrastructure for the purposes of development.
Labour MP Stella Creasy claimed victory in a debate on whether childcare should be considered part of economic infrastructure when it comes to new development after the Government clarified that it should be in a debate in the House of Commons today.
Labour MP Stella Creasy had put down an amendment to the Levelling up & Regeneration Bill to make developers pay towards childcare costs outside of educational settings, such as nurseries and holiday schemes.
The amendment, which had cross-party support, stated that the infrastructure levy on developers should include early years outside of educational settings.
Creasy said the paper set out a mission to increase the number of primary school children achieving the expected standards in maths, reading and writing by 2030. She said that could not be done without an investment in early years. She cited statistics showing children from disadvantaged backgrounds are already 11 months behind their peers before they start primary school in terms of development. “Investment in early years bridges that gap,” Creasy stated.
However, she said, the early years sector is in crisis with 300 non-domestic childcare providers having closed in the last year, the majority over the summer. Ninety-five per cent blamed the current level of investment in early years. Parents in the most deprived areas are the most affected, said Creasy, adding that it is not just about children but also the thousands of women who have become economically inactive – many in the last year – due to caring responsibilities. She cited figures from the Centre for Progressive Policy which estimate that if women had access to adequate childcare services, and were able to work the hours they wanted, they would increase their earnings by between £7.6bn and £10.9bn per annum.
Creasy was challenged that childcare already falls under planning regulations and that any development contributions only cover capital support ie for new buildings and not ongoing costs. Creasy said the levelling up minister Lucy Frazer had ‘muddied the waters’ by appearing to say that early years was not infrastructure and added that contributions could cover ongoing maintenance. She asked why a commitment to consider childcare as infrastructure shouldn’t be written into the bill to put it on an equal footing with other infrastructure, such as water and waste, and to place it beyond doubt that the Government considers childcare to be infrastructure. “Parents and potholes should get equal attention,” she stated.
Frazer said she wanted to clarify her earlier statement, stating that childcare is infrastructure even if not attached to education buildings and can be funded through the levy. She added that there were other powers in the bill which could be used to support childcare services.
Creasy then decided not to put the amendment to a vote, claiming that the debate had forced the Government to make clear that childcare was infrastructure. She stated: “Finally! We have dragged the government into almost the right place accepting that childcare should be seen as infrastructure and funded! It’s a start and grateful to those MPs who actually stood up to fight for investment for our kids and our economy!”
Meanwhile, an Ofsted report the extent to which workforce and resourcing challenges are compounding problems in childcare left over from the pandemic. The annual report says the early years sector is competing with, and losing out to, higher paid or more flexible employment and that nurseries have closed because they cannot recruit or retain high-quality, qualified and experienced staff. It adds that some have become over-reliant on apprentices to fill gaps, which has a knock-on effect on the quality of education and safeguarding.
The Department for Education’s Childcare and early years provider survey 2022, published this week, shows that the number of childcare providers fell by 10 per cent between 2018 and 2022 [and by 3 per cent between 2021 and 2022].
The DfE says the number of group-based providers stayed about the same and the number of school-based providers increased by 1,100 (13 per cent). However, the number of childminders fell by 8,000 (22 per cent), from 36,500 to 28,500.