Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Patchwork of Childcare

The BBC article on 8 radical solutions to childcare made me smile this morning. Not because they are so lovely, but mostly because they are so utterly unworkable, that there is definitely a bit of comedy going on. Still, nothing wrong for being a bit radical when really there is a big issue around childcare.

The reality of childcare is more like a patchwork. So I thought things would get a) simpler and b) cheaper once Cubling starts school. That would have been the naive world view of the uninitiated. With less than a month to go before the big day of starting school, I'm awfully smug because I managed to get all my childcare needs met. Yes, you heard me, and I know it'll make some jealous and want to hit, kick and bite me, but the jigsaw is complete.

And this is what it looks like, verion 5.13:

For term time:

  • 8-9 am Breakfast club on 4 mornings
  • 9am-3pm school
  • 3-6pm after school care on 2 afternoons a week
  • 3-6pm childminder 1 on 2 afternoons a week.
  • late work days: child minder 1

  • 8-5pm nursery on 3 days a week
  • (will change to 2 days plus 1 day at outdoor nursery once she turns 3)
  • 8-6pm childminder 1 on 1 day a week
  • late work days: child minder 1

In service days:
  • Childminder 1 or 2

School holidays:
  • Childminder 1 and 2.

Total: 6 child care providers between two children. I've not yet figured out the total cost, but we're on the very cheap end of it all and so lucky in that respect, but one thing I have realised is that we'll be paying significantly more on childcare than we currently do with 2 under 5s. Ok, my working hours are increasing so this is probably the bulk of the additonal cost, but still, my hope that once school kicked in, childcare costs would come down was an illusion.

For the past few months, I've had headaches and near head explosions about how to get it all organised and make sure there are no pieces missing and not gaps. Thankfully, our current 2 childminders (who we fall back on for anything additional) were able to pick up the missing pieces and it all worked out just fine.

However, looking at this it becomes clear that childcare isn't the simple "just put your child into a nursery" situation. My work is not strictly 9-5pm, there are commuting times to consider. After school, school holidays and in service days.

And even if it is all looking good, I still have the conundrum that I need Snowflake to be at nursery 8.30-5.30 and the nursery will only offer me 8-5pm, leaving me half an hour short for being able to have a full working day.

One of the suggestions are taking your baby. Have you tried it? Well I have and to be honest, not a lot of work gets done and I'm not sure if the work I do manage to get done is offset by the distraction from work that my colleagues surely experience (open office). A parent co-op? All I can say that whenever I tried to organise child activities , as soon as it goes over the 2 hours threashold it has to be registered, inspected and a whole lot of regulations, paperwork sets in which includes the necessity for any workers in this scheme to be disclosed and training towards a child care qualification. Not doable for working parents.

I do like the idea of combining care for the elderly and childcare. Of course I might be naive not having experienced the ins and outs of this, but it sounds like a solution which would benefit both children and older people, so I'd like to hear more about it.

As to schools being open all day, I've been arguing for a while how it would be good to have a one stop point for childcare, i.e. a child care provider located at a school and integrating preschool and after school care. Here in Scotland at least, pre school is delivered in half day sessions, so the nurseries that are attached to schools will mostly only offer 2.5 to 3 hours a day for 4 and sometimes 3 year olds. Which is no good if you're working. There are exceptions to this but these nurseries are notoriously difficult to get your child into. After school and holiday care would be best delivered as a standard at each primary school (I've not yet even found out what holiday care there is available and how much it costs as we're lucky enough that one of the childminders can step in).

Integrated childcare. The magic word. Sounds so much better than having to stop at 6 addresses during the course of a week.
Universal childcare. The end of worries and financial strains on families, which demonstrably has led to more equal societies and happier children in the Scandinavian countries - thus actually saving money in the long run rather than costing the taxpayer (through lower rates of crime, reduced mental health costs, lower health budgets, less prison sentences, less vandalism, less substance abuse, and the list continues).

The thing is, it can be done. It's not a distant dream. It does depend on political will and public support for the idea that children are an asset for the whole of the society and not just the parents' issue; that universal and integrated childcare reaps benefit for all of us, whether we choose to have children or not. And looking at the comments on the BBC article, we are a looooong way off such public support.


Muddling Along said...

Tell me about the headaches - the lack of joined up, reasonably priced childcare in this country makes me wonder if people really just hate parents

We are stuck into having to have a nanny because my hours aren't regular enough to work with a nursery and there isn't an effective wrap around that can cope with trains being cancelled and other infrequent hassles - spend an awful lot of my money on childcare, not least when you consider we don't get a tax benefit back on it

cartside said...

oh yes, the tax credits - gone for us as well. To be fair, we have reasonably priced childcare in the scheme of things and don't need tax credits so I'm ok with that. And we still got them when we needed them.

I still think though that in general, the cost of childcare is far too high and should be subsidised much more, because you need a pretty decent income to get enough to just pay for the childcare of 2 (around here, private nurseries charge £800 full time per child). In Germany for instance, childcare isn't free, but in a (married) family tax benefits are added together, so if one person works, they get their own tax free allowance plus the partner, plus the child(ren) - if both work, the couple still get extra tax free allowances for each child, regardless of income. Childcare and even travel costs can be offset against tax. The money is recuped by a much more progressive taxation system, i.e. at the high end of earners (who still benefit from the tax free allowances on partner, kids and travel).

sustainablemum said...

I was about to have this headache too, but we decided to home educate so We are and I willingly left my job. The government is encouraging mothers to return to work, and soon will stop paying any kind of tax credit unless your total household income is over 26k which may mean many need to if they still want tax credits, but has not considered the childcare needed to support this. I live in a rural area so if I had to drive to six childcare providers over a week I would not have time to go to work! I hope it all works smoothly for you.

cartside said...

I am struggling getting my working ohours in, and will also be working more hours than I really want. I'd love to do without a car but with this set up it's impossible. I'd love to home school but I don't think I'd be good at it - I wish I was! I've often been tempted to give up work as it all seems far too complicated and stressful, but I do love my job and just couldn't do it. Btw I don't understand the tax credit system. I thought the total household income had to be below 26k to get any - I really have to read up on the new system.

royalpk04 said...

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Clair said...

Everytime I hear someone's problems with childcare I give silent thanks that my husband is a stay-at-home dad. But now that the youngest is only a year away from school everyone is saying oh, he'll be able to go back to work full time now... erm no! Do you know any jobs that are Monday to Friday 9:30- 2:15 term time only and with the flexibility for sick children? We might not have the headache of nursery/ childminder/ afterschool but it costs us about £10-15k a year (assuming my husband had a FT job on a reasonable salary less what he earns just now on the weekends.) Oh, and when I'm at home, he's at work. Great for family time huh?

Ooh that all came out a but rant-y! Sorry!

Tallulah@Bilingual Babes said...

Wow, what a jigsaw puzzle, well done on putting all those pieces together! I am having to do work that fits around the school hours in theory, but in practice of course it's often late nights and long hours at the weekend...



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