The Free Ride Is Officially Over!

Parents today told of their fears for affordable childcare if plans to close two council-run nurseries go ahead.

Oh, dear. What a shame. No more subsidies.

Parents at Treetops Children’s Centre in Willesden said they were given eight weeks to come up with a business plan to run the nursery from March – or face paying more than twice as much for private childcare.

Yes, well, there’s no more money. Doesn’t anyone remember that hi-lar-ious jokey note that Liam Byrne left for his hapless successor?

Oh, how I bet you all laughed at that! Not laughing now, are you..?

Brent council said it was consulting on closing the centres because of “huge” government funding cuts. It claimed the nurseries are predicted to make a total loss of more than £250,000 for 2011/12.

In other words, they were never, ever financially viable, but were propped up on the backs of council taxpayers…

Parents in the borough say that many of them, especially single mothers, will be forced to give up jobs and go on to benefits because of a shortage of affordable nursery places.

Isn’t that blackmail? If they did that with a gun and a letter made up on newspaper clippings, they could go to jail for that…

Charlotte Sones, whose one-year-old daughter Margot attends Treetops, is leading a campaign to save the centre. Mrs Sones, a 39-year-old writer and telesales worker from Harlesden, said: “I feel sick to my stomach about it, it’s keeping me awake at night.

“One, because the council have forced a group of parents into the position of having to save a nursery, and two, having the trauma of potentially having to move a child who has been there since she was seven months old.”

I wasn’t aware that it’s the council’s fault that you are a mother who can’t support your child, love? Why not thank your lucky stars for those seven months you’ve already had off the public teat?

Charlotte Schilcher, an event manager from Harlesden, has two children, Alfie, six, and Betsy, one, who have both attended Treetops.

She said: “Parents are really worried and nervous about the future and their children. These are the things that are directly affecting families in this area.”

And paying for them was previously ‘directly affecting’ everyone in the area, via their council tax. I don’t recall any pressure groups starting up then…

Brent council’s head of early years and integrated services, Sue Gates, said: “We can’t afford to carry on as we are now. There’s lots of alternative childcare provision locally so families shouldn’t face any problem finding a suitable place for their child and, if these proposals are agreed, we will help them to make alternative arrangements.”

A bit more polite than ‘Dear chief secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left..’ but essentially the same message.

34 comments for “The Free Ride Is Officially Over!

  1. November 14, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Children are one of those things that everyone is expected to have and everyone is expected to pay for.
    Hopefully people will start thinking before they have children if they realise other people will no longer pick up the bill.
    I’m not holding my breath though.

    • Lord T
      November 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm

      Bucko,

      If we have enough of this it will get through eventually.

      • November 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm

        Hopefully. It says a lot about the majority of British people that we let it get so bad in the first place.

        • November 15, 2011 at 5:45 am

          You can get away with a hell of a lot if you use ‘the chiiiilllreeeen!’ as a shield…

  2. david@mjandp.com
    November 14, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Excellent post. Thank you.

  3. November 14, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    A number of issues here. Yes it’s so that you only have kids you’re going to be able to afford but at the same time, two parents with one kid is another matter if they can’t pay for basics, which is increasingly so. You could make the argument that if she was at home doing what she should be, then they wouldn’t need childcare. Against that is that the household income demands she go out and then there is the argument that with males discriminated against now to the extent that 60% of new executive positions are being taken by women, so they must work to compensate for unemployed dads, we have a mess.

    • November 15, 2011 at 5:50 am

      We do indeed, but it’s mostly a mess created from false expectations.

  4. Andrew Duffin
    November 14, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    The sad fact is, there was probably plenty of perfectly decent private childcare available for these people – until the council came along with their Elf n’Safety, their planning rules, their enhanced disclosures, their Risk Assessments, their licencing and inspecting charges, the EU’s minimum wage requirements, and all the rest of it.

    Then they offer a “free” nursery section in the local primary, and at that point the private provision just gives up and goes away – crowded and regulated out of business.

    Then this happens.

    It’s true that it was paid for out of everyone’s rates – but are they now going down because the facility is no longer on offer? Ha ha.

    • November 14, 2011 at 5:15 pm

      Bang on the money comment.

      What with enhanced CRB checks and all the other regulations that are hurting the low end service sector.

    • November 14, 2011 at 6:31 pm

      Oh, but Andrew, how can you say that?! All those regulations and certification schemes have made childminding so much safer, haven’t they?

  5. Mudplugger
    November 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Not a moment too soon. Childbirth is no longer an accidental bi-product of male/female relationship, it can be avoided/eliminated at any point in the lengthy process.
    If folk decide to continue with the process, they should do so in full acknowledgement of all the costs and responsibilities involved.
    There are already 7 billion on the planet – why should we use public funds to support the creation of yet more, whether by subsidised childcare, tax benefits or IVF on the rates ? (This rhetorical question applies not only in Britain but also in those many under-developed states where we insist on sending vast amounts of aid-money and drugs to assist the survival of yet more unnecessary humans, thus adding further to the global problem). Joined-up thinking anybody ?

  6. Paul Harrison
    November 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Sorry, but i have to disagree with a lot of the comments here. Firstly private nurseries are most definitely not being regulated out of business. Private nurseries probably still have one of the highest mark ups of any service provider out there – thanks mainly to the god awful wages that they pay their staff. Free nurseries are also only available to those on lower incomes, or for a limited number of hours – if Private Nurseries are struggling now its due to the fact that they are so expensive that for many its not financially viable to work as such a huge proportion of their income would go on childcare.

    As for the free nurseries, by taking them away you are damaging many of those children that need them the most. Nurseries provide education and social interaction to many children that wouldn’t necessarily have it – add in the fact that in many cases they are key in identifying children at risk. I’d much rather that my tax money is put towards free nursery places, that allow a parent to work – and therefore provide a more suitable role model, and in themselves be paying taxes, then paying for the parent to stay at home and claim benefits.

    And comments along the lines of “if you can’t afford children you shouldn’t have them” are ridiculous. Even without the obvious examples of those many parents whose living circumstances have changed either due to divorce, job loss or in many cases wages not increasing in line with inflation, its still the case that most private nurseries are around £40 per day per child, that’s £800 a month – the average wage for women of child bearing age is £20,000 so after tax over 50% of their income goes on childcare. In many cases this period lasts from a year (when maternity leave finishes) to three(when the government voucher scheme kicks in – and removes some financial burden). So is it the case that those with average incomes should not have children as there is a two year span when they will financially struggle. Or should they be forced to give up work during this period? Or is everyone suggesting that only high income families should be allowed to procreate? Or that only those who have grandparents that are still alive and live nearby can have kids?

    • Steve W
      November 14, 2011 at 7:22 pm

      “…add in the fact that in many cases they are key in identifying children at risk…”

      I assume you have some reliable statistics to back up this claim, if not it just sounds like a loud screech of “Think of the children” – which we’ve all heard far too often before.

      • Paul Harrison
        November 15, 2011 at 7:32 pm

        All nurseries should have in place a Child Protection Policy, additionally they are frequently involved in working with multi disciplinary teams with social workers etc. My wife has worked in nurseries for some time, and has been involved in cases relating to children identified as being at risk on a number of occasions. I would think that common sense tells us that if children are spending large amounts of time with nursery workers who also have frequent contact with their parents then they are in many cases the people who are most likely to pick up on issues.

    • November 15, 2011 at 5:55 am

      ““…add in the fact that in many cases they are key in identifying children at risk…””

      Or putting them at risk!

      No, Julia, surely not?

      Well, yes, there seems to be a lot of it about

      • Paul Harrison
        November 15, 2011 at 7:25 pm

        Seriously? Are you really trying to suggest that paedophilia is rife in nurseries? More so than it is in schools for example? Or more so then it is in the home of family members providing child care? 🙄

        • November 16, 2011 at 3:28 pm

          Not at all, I’m simply pointing out that nurseries are not only a good thing with regard to this. They can be just as bad as not being checked at all…

    • November 15, 2011 at 5:57 am

      “And comments along the lines of “if you can’t afford children you shouldn’t have them” are ridiculous.”

      Why? Would it be ‘ridiculous’ to say the same thing about pets? About large, expensive houses? Yachts?

      • Paul Harrison
        November 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm

        “Why? Would it be ‘ridiculous’ to say the same thing about pets? About large, expensive houses? Yachts?”

        Comparing apples and oranges again. If you can’t afford the repayments on your house or your yacht because you’re life circumstances change you sell them, mooring fees for your yacht jumps up exponentially compared to your income you sell it, can’t afford to look after your pet anymore you sell it, or alternatively just dump it at a home. Pretty sure you cannot do the same with children.

        • November 16, 2011 at 3:30 pm

          Well, I hear that, in certain circles…. 😈

          • November 16, 2011 at 4:20 pm

            But, being serious, as Bucko notes on his own blog (sorry, no link, I’m on my phone) a significant number of families are having children despite being classed as ‘low income’ – we aren’t talking about people whose circumstances are being changed to the point that they cannot afford children any longer, they never could afford them, if not for other people’s money…

            Why should we subsidise the breeding of these people?

            • Paul Harrison
              November 17, 2011 at 7:59 am

              How do you differentiate? How do you decide who chose to have children they cannot afford and whose circumstances have changed – a number of friends of mine in the private sector are being faced with a choice between pay cuts and redundancies, they still have jobs but there income has been hit. The article i posted up states that nursery fees are growing faster then inflation – what if you were simply to end up in a situation where it ceases to become affordable? I’m not denying that there are families out there that are having children that clearly cannot afford them, but equally you cannot deny that there are parents out there whose financial situation has changed, especially in the last few years. As for those that intentionally have children they cannot afford – that will never stop, ever. Even if they provided no support at all to the point of starvation it would still continue to grow, as would the problems associated with that. So if you cannot stop it then surely the point is how you handle the situation, and to me having parents who work and pay tax is infinitely preferable to having parents who don’t work and claim benefits, or dealing with the outcomes of providing no support at all.

              Should we subsidise the breeding of these people – ideally no, but that point is mute – like i said, it’s like saying you shouldn’t have to pay for a police force as people should be able to stay within the law.

    • November 15, 2011 at 7:40 am

      “I’d much rather that my tax money is put towards free nursery places, that allow a parent to work”

      That’s the bulk of the problem with your arguement; we don’t get to decide what our taxes are wasted on. Parents have children weather they can afford it or not. Everybody pays. Even childless couple like me and Mrs B.

      What is wrong with people making responsible choices about what they can afford to do in life?

      • Paul Harrison
        November 15, 2011 at 6:52 pm

        “That’s the bulk of the problem with your arguement; we don’t get to decide what our taxes are wasted on. Parents have children weather they can afford it or not. Everybody pays. Even childless couple like me and Mrs B.”

        I don’t see what the problem is, i pay taxes, government spends my taxes as they see best, and i appreciate it when they are spending it in a way i believe is sensible, hence my comment. And i fail to see what relevance having children or not has – everyone benefits from the quality of education that is provided within a nation – look at the amount of focus any of the emerging nations are placing on education for instance.

        “What is wrong with people making responsible choices about what they can afford to do in life?”

        Nothing wrong with it, but everyone knows that it will never happen – so it is the way in which the Government handles that situation. Its like bemoaning the government for employing police officers – why can’t people make reasonable life choices and live within the law. All i see is people complaining about problems without ever coming up with realistic solutions. Society will always have families that will struggle to afford their children, and during a recession that situation only worsens – should certain parents now be berated for losing their jobs due to a recession? Or mothers berated for having husbands that leave them and their children?
        Comments such as this “I wasn’t aware that it’s the council’s fault that you are a mother who can’t support your child, love? Why not thank your lucky stars for those seven months you’ve already had off the public teat?” are ridiculous as there is no context – would everyone feel the same if Mrs Sones was a widow? What if her husband walked out on her 6 months ago? Or what if quite simply due to market pressures the value of her job has decreased since the birth of her child, or the fact that childcare in that area may have increased considerably – the subsidised nursery charges £33 a day (hardly the “Free Ride” the title of this piece claims). So if you take the average family of 2.2 children that equates to £1524 a month. Even a single child would equate to £693 a month, or up to £1470 at the private nurseries (equivalent to the repayments on a £250,000 mortgage). Many would argue that the mother should not return to work then, but in most cases that is not feasible either – especially in this day and age as i’d imagine most people who have young children and have a property would have calculated their mortgage on a combined income not a singular, as this is virtually the only way to realistically get on the property ladder. Add to this the fact that any mothers who have a half decent job would not want to walk away from it at the moment as their is a good chance that the job market is not going to be improving any time soon-especially for someone who would have been out of the market for the last three years+.
        I’m a father of two young children, returning to work for my wife was not an option – ironically she was the assistant manager or a nursery – and even with the substantial discount her role would offer the cost of childcare would mean it would be pointless for her to return to work, we are fortunate that we can live of my wage (just), but i’m not in the most stable of work environments, so are you suggesting that we should not have had children due to the potential for not being able to afford our children should i lose my job?

        • November 15, 2011 at 7:58 pm

          You concentrate on people who may have fallen on hard times. The welfare state is (or should be) there to help such people.

          Granted not everybody makes sensible choices but it is not up to the government to pick up the peices using my money. I would much prefer to keep more of my hard earned cash than have it looted and given to people who cant afford their own lifestyle choices.

          The people refered to in this post are the ones who beleive they have a right to have children and that society must pick up the tab.

          I’ll not go over all my views again in response to your reply, I will just concentrate on your final question:

          “so are you suggesting that we should not have had children due to the potential for not being able to afford our children should i lose my job?”

          No. I am saying you should make adequate plans for the future, particularly since you say your job is not set in stone.

          I have a twenty year comitment with my mortgage. My job is fairly secure yet I can’t see 20 years into the future so I make plans for the worst should it happen.

          In the meantime, while you still have a job, you still chose to have children so you should still be responsible for all the costs associated with that choice.

          If childcare is expensive, don’t complain that the government should subsidise it more with other peoples money, complain that the government should keep thier noses out and stop driving up the costs with silly rules and restrictions.

          You say that we don’t come up with solutions, yet if you look around this site and others like it, solutions are offered all over the place. None of them suggest stealing money from one group of people to give to another.

          • Paul Harrison
            November 15, 2011 at 10:01 pm

            “You concentrate on people who may have fallen on hard times. The welfare state is (or should be) there to help such people.”

            Clearly its not though in this case. The people referred to in this article are all working – which to me is preferable to being on the welfare state. If people lose their jobs through no fault of their own, and have to take a lower paid job then what should happen with regards to child care. The options are that they either work and pay tax and send their children to subsidised nurseries, or they don’t work and claim benefits – I know which I find preferable.

            “Granted not everybody makes sensible choices but it is not up to the government to pick up the pieces using my money”

            What would you prefer – that the government give up on these people. I’d be willing to bet an awful lot more of your tax pounds would go into picking up the pieces.

            “No. I am saying you should make adequate plans for the future, particularly since you say your job is not set in stone.”

            Hardly anyone has a job that’s set in stone if they work in the private sector. And what does “adequate” plans mean. If i lose my job and have to take a lower position with lower pay, how do i plan for that? Are you truly suggesting that parents should have to save a certain amount to cover all eventualities before having children? I’m sorry but that is not in the slightest bit realistic.

            “In the meantime, while you still have a job, you still chose to have children so you should still be responsible for all the costs associated with that choice.”

            All the costs – so i should pay for private health care for my children and private education of course plus private hospital care for my wife whilst she has the child, naturally i should have substantial savings in case my child has a congenital disorder and cannot get private health care due to this, clearly i should also pay the extra 20% VAT on all the clothing and footwear they wear and full VAT on anything such as car seats and carry cots. I look forward to a nation where only the upper classes can procreate.

            Society benefits from having well educated children that grow up having parents that demonstrate a good work ethic. If society benefits from it then why shouldn’t it help fund it? The government already funds education – and if the evidence which suggests that earlier intervention has greater effects then surely this is the key area resources should be put into.

            “You say that we don’t come up with solutions, yet if you look around this site and others like it, solutions are offered all over the place”
            I’ve looked on this site and i see nothing that suggests a solution to this issue, infact the only other article i can find that covers this issue directly was written by you – and again bemoans the people having children but offers no solutions to the issue. What are your solutions?

            • November 16, 2011 at 7:38 am

              You’re very good at twisting words and adding what if this and that. Just look at what I’ve written and try to infer meaning that isn’t there.

              My solution is for people to pay for their own lifestyle choices and for the government to butt out – but you knew that as I’ve already said it.

              • Paul Harrison
                November 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm

                I’m not trying to infer meaning that isn’t there I’m simply asking you to clarify your position to a greater extent then “people should have to pay for their lifestyle choices” – does this mean that they should be forced to pay for private education and private healthcare – and the “government should butt out” – do you believe that the government should simply walk away from something that is clearly an issue, and do you feel that society should contribute to something that benefits society? They are simple enough questions.

            • November 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm

              Yes Paul, I beleive in all of those things.
              We were talking about childcare. You have moved into the realms of a complete Libertarian philosophy for an entire society, which incidently, I do beleive in.

              Yes people should pay for all those things, yes the government should butt out and no people shouldn’t be forced to pay for anything, weather or not some benefit to society can be shown.

            • November 16, 2011 at 3:32 pm

              “Society benefits from having well educated children that grow up having parents that demonstrate a good work ethic. If society benefits from it then why shouldn’t it help fund it? “

              Let’s concentrate on getting the former achieved first, before we strongarm people to pay for the latter, shall we?

    • Andrew Duffin
      November 16, 2011 at 11:40 am

      Paul, I speak from personal experience.

      The primary school in my village has a “nursery class” which IS available “free to all”, no means-testing and no restrictions. There are also dark mutterings from council people that if you choose not use their “free” provision, you shouldn’t be too surprised if there isn’t a place at the village school for your children when they reach entry age.

      And the playgroup DID close because they couldn’t stand – or pay for – the endless meddling.

      And all the perfectly sensible women who used to do casual child-minding have been frightened off by the need for disclosures, expensive and pointless modifications to their houses, stupid limits on numbers, and so on ad nauseam.

      This is not ignorant speculation.

      Your mileage may vary.

      • Paul Harrison
        November 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm

        I cannot comment on your personal situation Andrew, but i would say that exclusive, adequate, free childcare does not seem to reflect the trend http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/childcare-now-costs-more-than-top-public-school-1894547.html http://www.daycaretrust.org.uk/pages/rapid-rise-in-childcare-costs-adds-to-family-finance-woes.html

        “And all the perfectly sensible women who used to do casual child-minding have been frightened off by the need for disclosures, expensive and pointless modifications to their houses, stupid limits on numbers, and so on ad nauseam”

        I’ve never understood this argument- do people feel that this industry should not be regulated? That childminders should not have CRB checks? As for expensive and pointless modifications – most first time childminders receive grants to cover the costs of modifications, and most of the “pointless” modifications are simple common sense things such as stair gates, socket covers etc. I’m not denying that health and safety can overstep the mark, but its certainly preferable to the alternative. And i’m sorry but to claim that “all” the casual childminders have been scared off is ignorant speculation, there are over 55,000 registered childminders in the UK at the moment, over double the number of nurseries that are out there.

  7. November 14, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    By and large, if a Mum goes to work and puts her kid(s) in a nursery, the tax that she pays on her wages and the tax that the nursery pays on profits or wages just about cover the face value of the subsidies, it’s not such a bad deal as you suggest, they could achieve the same thing by giving working Mums a much higher personal allowance, for example.

  8. Moppy
    November 14, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    I have no knowledge of the childcare situation, but I can tell you that as soon as the government announced cuts, the council reduced there services overnight,streets not cleaned, parks poorly tended to name but two.

    I have no doubt this is as much a political move by the “Peoples Republic of Brent” as a necessary cut.

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