The Government is to announce a new £2 million scheme to encourage women in England to set up nurseries or childminding businesses.
Equalities minister Maria Miller will today announce that from April 2013 people who want to set up a nursery or a childminding business can access grants of between £250 for individual childminders and £500 for larger collectives [more than six children] to help cover things like legal and insurance costs, health and safety training, equipment, and adaptations to premises.
Specially tailored start-up advice and support, including mentoring, will also be available through the Government’s ‘Business In You’ scheme to help people get up to 6,000 new childcare businesses off the ground. Miller said: “There are more women in work than ever before and they are playing a vital role in our economic recovery. But good quality, affordable and reliable childcare is the key to even more women being able to work. More childcare options mean more women can take up jobs, help support their families and realise their own career ambitions.
“The childcare industry is already a major employer of women, and this scheme will provide huge opportunities for female entrepreneurs to start up and run their own businesses. This is an injection of cash designed to stimulate the sector in tough times, the new scheme will provide more childcare places but will also help get up to 6,000 new childcare businesses off the ground.”
The announcement comes ahead of the findings of the commission on childcare which is looking at the affordability and availability of childcare.
In a speech later today, Miller will say women are at the heart of economic growth, but she will reject firmly the EU suggestion that mandated quotas are the solution, saying the voluntary approach is working. In addition she will talk about the first annual progress report of the gender equality initiative Think, Act, Report. It shows over 50 leading employers, including BT and Deloitte, have signed up meaning more than one million workers are now covered by the gender equality scheme which encourages businesses to think about equality, take action to promote equal opportunities in the workplace and report on what they are doing.
Miller says: “By shining a light on the great work that many businesses are already doing here, we hope to encourage others to follow. More than 50 leading companies have already signed up to this approach. And they are doing this not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because they have found that what is good for their employees is good for the bottom line.”
She adds: “Britain today is in a global economic race, and there’s so much more we need to do to make ourselves more competitive. It makes no sense to stifle the achievement and aspiration of 50 per cent of our society. It is absolutely essential that we maximise the contribution that women can make to our economy. Not because of political correctness, but because of economic reality. Now more than ever, we need to remove barriers to the workplace.
“The way to do this is not through special treatment or regulation like the European Commission’s quotas idea, which patronises women and undermines the business case. It is about removing the barriers to achieving their goals, and so that women are supported all the way from the shop floor to the boardroom. We are making real progress in driving transparency and equality in our workplaces and will continue to do even more.”
Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, welcomed the extra investment in early years and childcare, but questioned if it would be enough and why money was not being given to existing providers who are struggling.
He said: “The £2m…may just about cover insurance costs alone, never mind covering the cost of purchasing equipment, toys, books, rent and rates, salaries and other core expenses. Ultimately, a small capital injection is no substitute for a long-term viable proposition.
“There can’t be anyone in the early years sector who is unaware that, for a long time, childcare providers have been arguing that there not enough money in the system.
“For the Government to announce plans to give money to new start-up schemes but not to those currently working in the sector is quite frankly a slap in the face to existing providers.”
He added: “We trust that the Government will ensure the sustainability of these new businesses and existing childcare businesses by making sure that all those taking part in the free early years entitlement scheme receive enough funding to cover the cost of providing these places for two, three and four year olds. Otherwise this will be a waste of taxpayers’ money at a time when money needs to be spent wisely and sensibly.”