Focus on childcare
Carole Edmond, Managing Director Bright Horizons UK & Ireland, focuses on the recent childcare announcements from the Government.
The Chancellor's Budget announcement this week provided thought for all of us involved in supporting working families, whether we are service providers, campaigners or employers.
Firstly, any measures that will help the affordability of childcare are to welcomed. Safe, high-quality, affordable childcare is essential for working families and for businesses. It is an important investment in the future of our children and helps support employees to remain with or return to their employers after parental leave.
Under the proposed new system parents will be able to enter a childcare voucher scheme directly (rather than via their employer as before), which empowers the individual and opens up accessability to those such as the self-employed and employees of smaller businesses who had not felt able to offer a voucher scheme.
It will also free employers from the administrative responsibilities surrounding vouchers currently, allowing them more focus and resources for strategic planning around dependant care and family supports. For although affordability is important, so too are accessability and flexibility. Working parents need childcare which is convenient to their home or work, supportive to their working patterns, and of consistently high quality. Employers can support these needs through provision such as on-site nurseries or back-up care for when their usual childcare arrangements fall through.
The new voucher system will in time be open to parents of children up to the age of twelve, which I'm sure will be widely welcomed. As any parent knows, myself included, school days bring their own logistical problems such as training days, bad weather closures and school holidays.
Life goes on, and young families become the sandwich generation, with responsibilities not just for children and teenagers but for their own parents and maybe other adult loved ones. We are all carers or potential carers and to ensure that we can fulfil our potential professionally as well as personally we'll always need family care supports.
As a working parent, an employer and a campaigner for working carers, I see some steps forward in the new childcare voucher system. I'll never stop looking for more however! Affordability is important but let's also keep thinking about safety, quality, accessability and the wider dependant needs that affect us all.
Carole Edmond, Managing Director Bright Horizons UK & Ireland