Childcare cost crisis?
Yesterday’s news that the average family is paying the equivalent of a mortgage on childcare has created a flurry of fuss and I’m not surprised. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-26373725) None of us have really got our heads around the idea that looking after people is one of the most important jobs in the world – whether they are your own or other people’s treasured relatives. It’s so easy to get indignant about the high cost of childcare – but what’s the alternative? Paying someone less than the minimum wage of £6 an hour?
The answer is not to blame the cost but celebrate the idea that finally care has come out of the broom closet and is being treated as the responsible professional job it is. For far too long childcare has been considered a Cinderella job – treated as the final resort for girls who have been let down by their families, their teacher and themselves rather than being championed as a proper career for people who chose it – like teaching or nursing or veterinary work. In many ways childcare is still stuck in the 1970s, treated as a holding pen for girls who have either flunked their GCSEs or who have run out of options. Not because they have any particular love or aptitude for it but because, too often, it’s that or nothing. Then we scream blue murder because they haven’t morphed into Mary Poppins overnight. That is why, I think, working parents get so incensed about the rising cost of childcare – we haven’t really caught up with the idea that our job, whatever it is, is just as important as those of our childminders, nursery teachers or nannies.
It’s galling working for virtually zero money or less – and as someone who forked out for four hours of babysitting so I could do two hours of teaching on Monday night I know exactly how frustrating that is. The answer, I think, needs a massive change of attitude on all sides – parents need to acknowledge that childcare doesn’t and shouldn’t come cheap if we want to raise happy, healthy and well-adjusted potential brain surgeons. Part of that comes from a shift of attitude so that we can recognise it as a temporary and expensive investment in our children’s future and our own careers, galling though that is. Equally the Government needs to acknowledge that, like hip replacements and flying ambulances, the people most in need of such care aren’t always able to pay for them. If we want children well looked after so they can grow up to become pilots, paramedics and nurses who don’t ignore hungry and thirsty octogenarians, we have to divvy out the cost of the prep work a bit.
So what do you think? Are childcare costs unaffordable or should we stop complaining about paying childminders a living wage to look after our children? We’d love to read your comments below…
Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn