Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson this week heard how government childcare reforms could threaten the future of nurseries throughout Sefton.
Bill spoke to childcare professionals throughout the constituency to hear their views about government proposals to change childcare rules and legislation.
The Children and Families bill, which goes before MPs on February 25, allows a higher ratio of children per adult at nurseries where staff have taken more rigorous and demanding qualifications.
But Louise Waller owns 'It's The Little Things Children's Day Nursery' at Maghull's Parkhaven Trust. Louise warned that the Tory-Lib Dem proposals will devastate the childcare profession.
Louise told Bill: “We were appalled by the latest government proposals. They’re ill-considered. Rather than raise quality, they will lead to a decline in quality, with many nurseries reducing staff numbers to reduce fees. The losers will be the children.
“Looking after three babies is quite a task for any trained member of staff. Children need lots of attention and support and yet this proposal works opposite to this.
“As a country, we need to think about the long term impact, and even the cost to the public purse. You can influence and shape children from an early age.
"A human brain develops most in the first three years of life. This is when they make all of the vital connections about the world around them. Connections which will shape the person they become in the future. If we leave this until secondary school, it’s too late. If we want to change society it has to happen in the early years, which is why Scandinavian countries have invested so heavily. That for me is why funding should be given to early years settings/good early years advisers to work with settings, to ensure a continued upskilling of the workforce, better pay, and better nurture of the young minds we can help to shape.
Louise fears the Tory-Lib Dem changes will end up being damaging to children.
She said: "The proposed changes are not about raising quality despite their claims… it’s about failing to take the issues seriously. Less staff doesn’t necessarily mean lower fees, but it does mean lower quality. What we’ll have are parents expecting lower fees, staff understandably expecting higher wages, less staff in the nursery, and the children suffer.
"Baby ratios are 3:1 but often we have a spare member of staff. This is a crucial time in any child’s life.
"Currently parents don’t bring their children to our nursery because of the cost, we are more expensive than most in the area, they come because of the quality, the level of care, the experience for their children, the outdoor play, the continuity in staff, the environment, the things we do with children outdoors and indoors that parents simply don’t have the time to do.”
Bill said he would be challenging the Tory-Lib Dem childcare changes.
Bill said: "I'd like to thank Louise and her partner Scott McCubbin for showing me around their fantastic nursery, and I'd like to thank the many other childcare professionals who have spoken or contacted me about this issue.
"The overwhelming feeling is that these changes will threaten child safety and will fail to reduce costs.
"The Tories and Lib Dems have already created an affordability crisis by cutting support and pushing up costs for parents. Watering down quality is the wrong way to deal with the problem they've caused.
"With a £1,700 Toddler Tax for families with two children, and 401 fewer children's centres, parents are being locked into inflation-busting cost rises while the quality of childcare is undermined.
"The government's changes help no one. They don't help the childcare industry, they don't help parents and they compromise the safety of our children.
"That is what experts in Sefton Central tell me and why I will be opposing these plans in Parliament."