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Last Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006, 12:57 GMT
London: Childcare in the Capital
Zia Trench
Zia Trench
Politics Show London

Full-time nursery places cost most in London

The Politics Show talks childcare - is there enough support for women in the City?

Does every child matter?

There is a simple reason for providing good, affordable childcare; and it is not some notion of women's rights to work or even a matter of freedom of choice; it's about hard cash.

A London poll found half of mums are not working full-time and many mums do not work at all - opting to stay at home because they can, or because it is not worth the costs of childcare.

The poll, commissioned by the Mayor says 15% of women not working, would like to.

The economics of this, is billions of pounds not being made and spent in the economy.

When you are talking economic growth and how to get more money pumping around, it is easy to see why it is worth targeting these women.

So worth targeting in fact, that billions is being pumped into government into childcare support each year.

The problem is there is little incentive for women in London to work.

As one friend said to me, "by the time I have paid my childminder's national insurance, she is getting more of my wage packet, than I do".

She is not alone; thousands of women find costs of childcare in London, unaffordable, because the average cost for childcare is about 25% higher in London than the rest of the UK.

To put it another way, a nursery place costs people in London about 40 a week more than if they were living elsewhere in the country.

There are state-funded nurseries, but the waiting lists are huge.

And, despite the billions, despite the 10 year strategies, we're expected to pay around 75% of childcare costs on average, compared to families in the rest of Europe, paying about 30%.

On the subject of the UK, we are expected to pay around 75% of childcare costs on average, compared to families in the rest of Europe, paying about 30%.

Childcare is expensive, hard to access and because it does not pay well, often of poor quality.

It is these problems that government policy (both national and local) is desperate to tackle.

What the Government is doing

Childcare funding has soared over the last decade; In 1996 1.1billion was spent, in 2007 this will be 5.5bn.

Meanwhile the government has extended the entitlement to free care to three to four years olds.

In December 2004, the 10 year childcare strategy was launched and in 2005 10bn went into Sure Start (for children's centres) and the childcare element of family tax credits.

In the July 2004 spending review, 100m was promised to double the number of children's centres around the country - so that they would reach 70% of low income families.

And in London

A major pledge in the Mayor's re-election campaign, was a childcare strategy - including 30m for a three year plan to part-fund nursery places for low income earners in London.

It is called the childcare affordability programme and will fund the childcare providers directly, so they can make the places cheaper for parents who are on low incomes and qualify for this help.

The problem is, is the nurseries are still waiting, nearly six months after applying, for this funding.

The problem is, is local authorities had to apply by the end of September for funding.

Getting on for six months now, since this deadline, nurseries are still waiting, for this funding to come through.

The other problem is, is the whole system is so complicated.

Denise Burke, Childcare Manager, for the London Development Agency said: "Nursery will advertise weekly fee, but as parent you may be entitled to vouchers, credit, early education grant.

"... And lower income families might be entitled to CAP. This makes it difficult to plan."

And that is the major issue in London; funding is out there, but there are so many different sources, some goes to the parents themselves and other funding goes to the service providers.

The Politics Show London

Join the Politics Show on BBC One on Sunday 19 March 2006 at 12.30pm with Tim Donovan.

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