Let’s Inject Quality into Childcare Plans

Our Executive Director, Fiona Vacher was invited to comment on the recent announcements and discussions around working parents and childcare with this article published in the Jersey Evening Post on Wednesday 12th April 2023:

PwC’s Chief Strategy Officer, Leyla Yildirim, presented a compelling economic case to a packed Chamber of Commerce lunch event recently following the publication of PwC’s “Women in Work Index 2023”. I attended as a guest of Baccata Trustees Ltd and was so interested to hear Leyla stating why women are key to solving our skills gap and that childcare (cost and availability) was a significant barrier to accessing work – she’s right! At exactly the same time, my notifications were buzzing with the budgetary announcements in England – “extension of free childcare to all children from nine months” and “increases in child-to-staff ratios for two to three year olds”.

These changes in England could appear to be just what families need here in Jersey too; parents locally describe childcare costs as ‘a second mortgage’ but they also tell us how they struggle to find available childcare.

Simply providing the funding for free childcare, however, won’t magically create more childcare places and increasing the number of children that staff can care for will add more pressure and reduce the quality of care. And it’s this quality of care that is absolutely key; the Nuffield Foundation’s research proves what quality in early years care looks like too; low child to adult ratios, low staff turnover, highly qualified, responsive practitioners.

The Princess of Wales’ Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood agrees. In addition to its ‘Shaping Us’ Campaign to raise awareness of how our earliest experiences shape our future selves, Her Royal Highness has just launched and heads up her new “Business Taskforce for Early Childhood”. Business leaders are coming together to “transform the way society prioritises and supports children and the ecosystems around them in their earliest years” (www.centreforearlychildhood.org). They are focused on making long-term change, growing both the economy and shaping our society so that our future workforce is happy, healthy and productive.

As this is such a critical issue for Jersey’s future growth and success of our businesses, our economy and society, perhaps we should mirror this Business Taskforce here in Jersey.

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