4 Siobhan Baillie debates involving the Scotland Office

Childcare and Early Years

Siobhan Baillie Excerpts
Wednesday 8th March 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie (Stroud) (Con)
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I absolutely love this important debate. What the country and the sector want is parental choice. Many parents are telling me that they do not have enough options because settings have closed or are too expensive. As my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Dame Andrea Leadsom) says, very young children are often better placed with their mother or father or with a childminder, nanny or au pair. There should be a range of options, but in recent years the options have steadily declined. Parental choice, underpinned by quality, is exactly what we should be hoping to achieve.

Robin Walker Portrait Mr Walker
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My hon. Friend has been a great champion for parental choice; I know that she has worked with Onward and others to make the case for it. That is a really important part of the argument, and I look forward to engaging with it as the Education Committee inquiry progresses.

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Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie (Stroud) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson); having heard about her experience with four children, I take my hat off to her. I did do a little bit of preparation for this speech today as I was haring down the road, late for my daughter’s nursery. In proper slummy mummy style, I saw it was snowing and raining, so I wrapped her in a carrier bag, gave her a broken umbrella and started running—and we were still late. At one point I looked at her and thought, “God, you’ve got gunk in your eyes, they’re going to turn me away at the door and I’ve got a Select Committee,” but it turned out to be porridge from her sister—God knows how it got in her eye.

I tell that story to make people laugh, but also because the chaos of little children and children as they are getting into school is real life. It is reality and, no matter where we come from, what our education is or what our job is, it is really hard graft. Many families are pulling in grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, using child nurseries, childminders, nannies and au pairs—it is a real patchwork. We should be open to many different options to support families in all their weird and wonderful different set-ups.

Everyone knows I am a proper pest on childcare. I started campaigning on this issue way before I had my own children, because I saw clearly that it was very serious. It is not just a women’s issue, much as I would love to be able to say it is on International Women’s Day; it is an economic issue, a health issue and a mental health issue. It affects businesses, particularly the ability to recruit, because while we have a high participation of females in the workforce in this country, they are not working at full tilt in many respects—many because of childcare and many because of the cost of childcare.

One little thing that is not talked about very often is that the transition to parenthood for couples— married, not married or whatever—is one of the hardest times of anybody’s life. If there are additional childcare stresses, chaos, nonsense and costs, we could see parents breaking up because of all that pressure, and we know the impact of family breakdowns on society, on the country and particularly on children. That needs to change, and it is really important that we are focusing on it.

I am a huge fan of my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker)—I hang on his coat-tails and on his every word on this subject. I am grateful that his Select Committee is producing a report, because I think the Walker reforms, as they come forward, will be quite pivotal in what the Government may do.

On a political point, I get a bit fed up with the Opposition talking about under-investment and saying that everything is absolutely dire. Let us look at the Labour party’s record in government—I know that that was a long time ago, but it is not our fault that it has not won any elections—when investment in childcare and early years was about a third of what it is now. We are spending £5 billion to £6 billion of taxpayers’ money on childcare support. I am one of the biggest champions for change, but it is wrong to say that this Conservative Government have not invested in childcare; it is right to say that we should use that money a little differently and consider the schemes.

We have eight schemes at the moment. We know that they have various degrees of success and that there are bureaucratic nightmares in some respects, so there are definitely changes to be made, but I want to get to the point where we have more parental choice, absolute stellar quality across the sector, and a sector that is loved and respected for its experts. Regardless of how they work in the early years workforce, they are experts and we charge them with looking after the most precious things in our lives, so I want the childcare and early years sectors to be loved and put on a pedestal, exactly as we do with teachers. At the moment, that is not the case, and that is part and parcel of why attention and funding do not go to that area.

I have not just been carping and sniping from the sidelines. I have put some effort in and worked with those at the fantastic think-tank Onward, who are the most brilliant super-brains. We came up with the “First Steps: Fixing Childcare” report. I will run through its six headline recommendations.

We want to get to a point where we are empowering parents through a new system of childcare credits. That deals very much with choice and ensuring that any state support can be used in a more bespoke way. At the moment, some state subsidies cannot be used for a childminder who is not Ofsted-registered, for example. That is wrong. We need to ensure that if parents are comfortable with quality and safety, and safety standards are met, they can use state support in any way that they want.

We would like to investigate the front-loading of child benefit. Our understanding is that the first 1,001 days are the most important in a child’s life, and all the evidence is there—it is 40 years old—so let us look at some different models. They might not work, but I think that it is important that we model that because there may be some unintended consequences. Disadvantaged families have told me that they would be worried about that change. We would have to model that, but I think it is worth having a think through whether child benefit could be changed.

I would like to see a reform of parental leave by abolishing separate maternity and parental leave in favour of a single parental leave scheme. Parents would have a shared entitlement of about 12 months. Again, we can look at the research and consider the unintended consequences, but that is something that we could get to.

We could expand family hubs. As we heard, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Dame Andrea Leadsom) has done an amazing amount of work on that. Family hubs are not just like Sure Start centres. They deal with the period before birth, when women are pregnant, all the way through to late teens and into adulthood, and beyond for children with special educational needs and disabilities. My nephew has Down’s syndrome, and he will have support until he is 25. The family hub will be the perfect place. That is quite different from the previous offer from previous Governments.

I have great fondness for the Sure Start centres, but I think that it is absolutely wrong to say that every single one of them was performing brilliantly. Having spoken to people in Sure Start centres and thought about this as a councillor, I know that a lot of the centres were not doing outreach, so the same parents came around and around from the very early years. Let us be honest about and learn from the challenges, and make changes so that family hubs work well. Someone told me recently that there were more Sure Start centres than McDonald’s in the country. I have not checked that, but there are a lot of centres, and we should be able to champion them and keep them there if that is what the local area wants, but we should also consider family hubs.

I want to see some prioritisation of childminders and childminding agencies—I could talk about this for a very long time. At the moment, we have lost about 50% of our childminders through a lot of heavy-handed regulation, not necessarily from our Government but over a long period. They are often women who have a lot to add to the workforce as well as providing childminding services. We should be able to stimulate the childminder market, particularly through childminding agencies. As other hon. Members have mentioned, there is an inequity in the fact that private childcare settings have to pay business rates, but state settings do not. That inequity needs to be ironed out and, ideally, knocked out.

Again, I think we should look at the training and education of the early years workforce, because they are absolutely wonderful people. As a lawyer, I had to do continuing professional development. We want to make sure that that is baked into the system, and that the early years workforce are respected for that CPD if they are doing it.

Robin Walker Portrait Mr Robin Walker
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I realise that I have banged on a lot in this debate, but on my hon. Friend’s point about training and CPD, one of the really good things we were able to do during my time at the DFE was invest in national professional qualifications for the teaching workforce. There are NPQs for the early years workforce, but the challenge is that those qualifications are focused on those parts of the workforce who work in schools. Would it not be great if, as part of the investment in this area, the Government were able to widen the reach of those NPQs to people who work in the private and voluntary sector within the early years workforce?

Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie
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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. We need to be able to focus on training and look at all the options, because the workforce are really keen on CPD. It is often quite a vocational profession: people grow up wanting to be childminders, often because they love kids. I mean, I come to this place for a rest—I could not do it. I have massive respect for that workforce, because I could not do what they do. Those people are in the job for a really good reason, but they often fall out of it because the pay is really low and there is not that ongoing professionalisation and earning of qualifications, or the building up of skills.

I am grateful to the DWP Select Committee, particularly the right hon. Member for East Ham (Sir Stephen Timms), because we have carried out a full investigation of the childcare element of universal credit. That has been really helpful, because we have discovered through evidence that the up-front payments are causing huge problems for parents on universal credit. Basically, what is happening is that every new term, parents are begging and borrowing to pay for that term’s childcare, and then they get 85% of that money back through universal credit. That is a really good offer, but families are getting into debt to make those up-front payments—not just once, but every single term—and then the money comes back through universal credit in dribs and drabs. It does not come back with a label saying, “This is for you to repay your childcare bill.”

That approach is causing real trouble, and as we have heard from other hon. Members, the cap has not been uprated. It is a really good offer from the Government and the DWP under universal credit, but only 13% of families are taking it up because it is a complete mess. I appreciate that it is not the responsibility of the Minister’s Department, but the fact that universal credit childcare claimants are not using this system, or they are using it and the money is paid all over the place, is having an impact on the childcare sector, which is directly under the Minister’s control. Again, I am really grateful to the whole of the DWP Committee for looking at that issue.

As we can see, this is not all about money: some of it is about regulation, safety and quality. Parental choice is high up there, but there are things we can do that are—to use an awful phrase—low-hanging fruit. I urge the Government to get things done. I have been putting a lot of pressure on the DFE, the DWP, No. 10 and the Treasury, particularly ahead of next week’s fiscal event, and I am also grateful to all the national newspapers that keep covering this area; The Sun, in particular, is very interested in the universal credit childcare issue. The support that it as well as the whole childcare sector in my constituency of Stroud has provided has been incredible. As all Opposition Members know—as the whole House knows—this issue is coming up on doorsteps. It is something that needs to be addressed, so the fact that we are looking very closely at funding is important.

I have had to be really hard-headed about this issue, trying to find solutions. I would absolutely love to do what some parties are doing: go around saying that we can provide universally free childcare from nine months to 11 years. I would love to be able to make that offer and say that that is going to happen very quickly, because parents are obviously very desperate at the moment to see change, but I do not think that would be the right thing to do. The hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes) and I had an exchange on this topic before, when I asked how much that policy is likely to cost. I know that the Labour party has not costed it yet, because it is working on other policies.

Helen Hayes Portrait Helen Hayes (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab)
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I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way, because she mentioned the exchange we had recently in Westminster Hall. Can I be clear that it is not currently a Labour party costed pledge to provide universal childcare in that way? We believe there is a need for radical reform of the system, and we are working towards those proposals, and we will put forward our fully costed proposals to the country in due course.

Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie
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I am grateful for that clarification, because the perception is, in all the trails and all the newspaper articles—a lot of people just see headlines and social media clips, or people standing up doing very short things—that universal free childcare is coming from the other side.

Helen Hayes Portrait Helen Hayes
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I would be grateful if the hon. Member could help not to reinforce inaccurate perceptions in everything she says in this House and, indeed, in Westminster Hall.

Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie
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I would absolutely love to sit down with the hon. Member on the Front Bench and go through some of the newspaper articles I have seen coming from the Opposition, because ultimately, we have to be careful with parents. I do not want parents to be thinking, “Very soon, I will get free childcare, so I am not going to go back to work at the moment. I am going to wait for these big bang changes”, because ultimately it is very unlikely that universally free childcare from nine months to 11, or whatever is being trailed, will be fundamentally affordable to this country. It would not be sustainable and it would be incredibly difficult for the childcare sector to manage, particularly at the moment. I know I am possibly going to make myself unpopular in some quarters, and I am perhaps not giving parents exactly what they want, but it is important that at this stage—for the next week, I hope that this is what the Chancellor and the Treasury are talking about—we are making sure that we are funding and underpinning the childcare sector.

I give credit to the Women’s Budget Group—I think a number of Opposition Members have mentioned this—which has created a coalition of early education and childcare. The coalition has more than 30 bodies, including the Federation of Small Businesses, the CBI, Oxfam, Save the Children, Citizens Advice, the Early Years Alliance, the Fatherhood Institute and the Fawcett Society—loads of people that we have great respect for. The coalition’s ask is twofold at this stage. The first is for an increase to the baseline hourly rate of funding to reflect the true cost of provision. That is the much-feted free hours. They are not free—the taxpayer pays—and the childcare sector is clear that those hours have been underfunded. The Minister and I have had many conversations about this. I would like to see those hours brought up to scratch to ensure we have a motoring childcare sector alongside the stimulation of other things, such as childminders. The second thing that this learned coalition is asking for is reform of the universal credit childcare support to help parents return to work, which I have already mentioned.

The final point I would like to make—I realise I have been going on, but I am so passionate about this, and I am grateful for everyone’s involvement—is that I have met two childminder agencies called Koru Kids and Tiney. They are desperate to provide more childminders and people who can support families. Koru Kids told me that it puts adverts out for childminders and things called “home child carers”, who are effectively part-time nannies who can go into someone’s house. People can take their kids to childminders, but these people can go into people’s houses so that people can work shifts. They can do wraparound care and be flexible. It put out an advert to see how many people would like to apply and it got 75,000 applicants, the majority of whom were women. When it went through the analysis, a huge section were over-50s women or women who were not applying for other jobs. We are thinking about the economically inactive—the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are looking at that—and this is a workforce we could stimulate to get people into jobs, playing a massively important part in our economy. These people have been overlooked.

My final point is on ratios. I am calling for the Government not to make changes to childcare ratios at this stage. It is important that they are investigated. It was never going to be suggested that there would be a change to safety. The Government are looking at the Scottish model, and I do not think anyone is suggesting there are unsafe settings up there. The research I have done with Onward demonstrates to me that the sector is not in a position to take a change to ratios. The sector is also telling us that it would not pass any changes on. As far as I can see, there is no evidence that changing the ratios would change the cost for parents, which is obviously a big focus. We have to be honest about that. If we changed the ratios, the political noise would also be so great that all the other good things that I hope we are going to do would be drowned out.

I thank everybody who is involved. I have had an exchange with the hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood, but I hope she knows how much we can all do in this area. It is important to be honest and realistic with parents, the sector and the country.

Autism and ADHD Assessments

Siobhan Baillie Excerpts
Monday 6th February 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie (Stroud) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Fovargue. I have had the good fortune of working with the ADHD Foundation, thanks to the work of my constituent, Jane Roberts, which culminated in my following quite closely some of the ins and outs, successes and not, of work on neurodiverse conditions. We had a beautiful display in Stroud to raise awareness, with a number of colourful umbrellas throughout the town. Many constituents asked, “What are these umbrellas?” and we were able to have conversations about what ADHD is and what needs to change to support people with the condition.

Day in, day out, I am battling for Stroud district parents of children with special educational needs. I am talking to the Government, local authorities, councillors, Ministers and health teams, but my efforts are nothing compared with those of the hundreds of Stroud families who are battling every single day to be heard. There are some really worrying decisions being made and situations for children, particularly those waiting for diagnosis or for an EHCP. One mum told me that her little lad with autism has an hour in a mainstream school, so by the time he has got his little coat off, he has to put it back on again and leave. We all know that a feature of autism is the need for stability and a steady day, which is absolutely not what this child gets.

Many parents are waiting for diagnosis for ADHD and autism. They are fighting to be listened to and to get a way forward. They are fighting to find the right person to talk to, or even to get a response in some cases. They are fighting for funding, they are fighting for dates, they are fighting to understand timelines and they are fighting against delays. All too often, they are being pushed into tribunals and getting into debt in the process, but they keep going because they are fighting for their children. Parents do not want their children to be labelled or medicalised, as is so often mentioned in response to these discussions; they want them to be understood, and they want to have the right support in place so that their children can thrive.

I am in my late 40s, so I went to school in the ’90s—Oasis, Blur, Kula Shaker and the Spice Girls. It is a long time ago now, and many of my peers are in all sorts of jobs. I have often wondered how many of us would have benefited from an early diagnosis of autism or ADHD when we were kids. Such conditions were not discussed when we were at school. It was not something that was raised or thought through. I am not surprised, therefore, that there has been a 400% increase in adults obtaining an ADHD diagnosis; it is because, unfortunately, this is quite new to many adults I talk to.

The parents and adults in Stroud who talked to me about these conditions said that there is nothing more discombobulating than constantly feeling that they are in the wrong job or career and do not understand why. They are never quite able to get the right help and are constantly changing things, such as diet and exercise; they will suddenly get medication, then come off it, but nothing helps. Again, adults who have had late diagnoses of autism and ADHD told me that they did not want to be medicalised or labelled; they wanted answers.

Mark Eastwood Portrait Mark Eastwood
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My hon. Friend mentions the delays to adults getting a diagnosis in years gone by. Is it not the case that that is because there has until now been a misconception that ADHD is a sign of bad behaviour and not a medical condition?

Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie
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My hon. Friend is completely right, and he spoke movingly about his own family’s experiences of these conditions. It is incumbent on all of us in this place to try to raise awareness of what these conditions are and how they affect people. Of course, with every individual being so wildly different, people will have different outcomes and different behaviours. We should not write anybody off or put them into one single bucket.

For the parents and adults I have spoken to, it is a complete relief when they finally receive a diagnosis and get to talk to somebody. One woman said to me, “Of course, when I looked up the condition, everything in my life made complete sense.” We should have got there earlier in her case.

When the Government look at this, I know that Ministers will carefully study the evidence, the data and the targets—the very smart people in the civil service will be doing the same—but the data is wanting, as we have heard from many hon. Members, and so much is hard to quantify. How many jobs and careers have been lost through the failure to diagnose autism and ADHD early? How many opportunities lost? How many people are on depression and anxiety medication, when clarity about their health through an early diagnosis could have helped them? How many people are secretly self-harming, and how many have taken their own lives?

That leads to my constituent, Jane, whose son, Ben, sadly took his life in 2020. I remember early conversations with Jane on Zoom during the pandemic, when we were on lockdown. I would have fallen apart; she obviously has had incredibly dark moments, but in response to Ben’s death she has dedicated her life to trying to raise awareness about ADHD. She has invested £30,000—probably even more now—to ensure that there is early diagnosis for other children, and she funded the Umbrella Project I mentioned in Stroud.

Another constituent, Zaphira Cormack, has written to me about this issue. She founded the ADHD Hub in Gloucestershire last year. Since lockdown, she has seen an influx of adults seeking diagnosis, and daily she receives calls from parents struggling with children who are self-harming or suicidal. There was no pathway for children and young people in Gloucestershire, although this has now been commissioned for Gloucestershire, so we are hoping to see change.

I will be interested to hear from my hon. Friend the Minister, who is a hugely compassionate and knowledgeable Minister, and a nurse by background. I want to hear her views in response to some of the questions asked by hon. Members. Many people talk to me about the lack of understanding and awareness at primary care level, as GPs are often the first port of call when people have concerns. Parents are concerned in particular about lack of training, so I would like to know whether this is a feature of the work of the Department and whether anything is being done about training in primary care. I would also like to know how the Department of Health and Social Care is working with the DFE and local government, because we know that waiting times and the daily experiences of parents often do not sit with her Department when it comes to education.

I am very interested in the pilots that my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Laura Farris) mentioned. We would very much like some pilots in Stroud, if there are any going. I would like a comparison study to be done: when there are swift and early diagnoses, how many children and adults are found not to have ADHD or autism, because they had early treatment? My biggest fear is that people are waiting so long that they are ending up in a very difficult place, and they may go without education in the meantime.

My approach to politics is quite simple. Once we strip away all the drama in this very beautiful building, with political parties shouting at each other, saying that the other side does not care or does not have the right ideas, at the very core of this job is spotting problems and solving them. When family after family are telling all of us, across the House, that, at a time when we want everyone to be more productive and active, GPs, the NHS, central Government and local government do not have quite the right policies to ensure that children and adults can thrive in this country, we absolutely have to act, and we have to get in earlier. I am really looking forward to hearing from the Minister today.

Early Years Childcare: Staff-Child Ratios

Siobhan Baillie Excerpts
Monday 14th November 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie (Stroud) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Harris. I congratulate the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) on her great speech about a fantastic petition. My notes say, “Don’t cry,” but I might. Lewis, I watched your BBC interview; I know your aim is to enshrine Oliver’s memory, and his name will be recorded in Hansard repeatedly today. The fact that you are able to find strength from your grief to try to help others is incredibly inspiring.

I have been campaigning on childcare for as long as I have been an MP. I have now bothered three Prime Ministers and four Chancellors, one of whom is now the Prime Minister, and I know they all care deeply about this issue. I want to see action and I do not think it is right to criticise the Government for looking into the issue of childcare ratios, which I will come to in a moment. We are right to reform the childcare system. We are spending £5 billion to £6 billion of taxpayers’ money on various different schemes that work for some families but are perceived to be failing for many others.

I am doing some work on the childcare element of universal credit. That needs reform because parents say that they cannot go to work or that it is not worth them going to work. Brilliant mums and dads are really feeling the pinch on the cost of childcare. Parents in the UK currently spend 26% of their entire household budget on childcare, and the proportion is 20% for single parents. The OECD average is 10%, but the UK figure is 26%, whereas in the USA it is 14% and in Canada it is 12%. As I said to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s questions last week, we have to make the system work and ensure that providers do not go belly up. There are some fantastic childcare providers in Stroud who are incredibly worried at the moment, so it is great to have this debate.

If we are going to change childcare ratios, I want to hear from the Government about the impact on safety. We may not be able to hear about that in full today, not least because it is the debut response to a debate by the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Claire Coutinho), but what is the safety impact? Show us the evidence. I know she is looking carefully at all the evidence and safety impacts, but will she tell us whether a change to the childcare ratio will reduce fees for parents? Will it increase salaries for early years staff, which is something we desperately need? Will it offer flexibility to providers? We have heard from many providers that they do not want to take up any change to childcare ratios, but is more flexibility good for the sector?

I am concerned about changing ratios now because of the issues we face in the workforce. I want the issue flushed out. It is has been going around in circles since at least 2013, when my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss) held the position now held by my hon. Friend the Minister, and we know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) wanted to look at the issue when he was Prime Minister. On the surface, my right hon. Friends are right that England has stricter ratios in comparison to other countries. For children aged two in France and Canada, the ratio is one trained adult to eight children. In Australia, that ratio is one trained adult to five children, and in Japan it is one trained adult to six children. There are no limits at all in Denmark, Germany or Sweden.

As we have heard from other Members, the question is whether other countries have more relaxed ratios partly because their workforce is more qualified. The parents present today have set the challenge of putting safety first. It is wrong to assume that if ratios are relaxed, nurseries in England will suddenly be able to take in more toddlers without employing more staff, because our current workforce do not feel able or qualified to a high enough standard to look after those children.

Also, child-to-staff ratios could not be changed without adjusting the space ratios, as we have heard from a number of Members. Many providers are at capacity with the amount of children they have in the space, so relaxing child-to-staff ratios would not result automatically in providers being able to care for more children. Nurseries would have to look at other premises, and we know the costs they would face to change them.

I have briefings on this coming out of my ears. People really care, and I thank the NDNA, Pregnant Then Screwed, Coram, Mumsnet and all who have been speaking to parents and providers throughout the country for an extremely long time. Gloucestershire PATA, with which I had a Zoom conversation about the concerns for Gloucestershire providers, wrote:

“Having one practitioner looking after four 2-year-olds is already challenging, especially in small settings (which many are in Gloucestershire). This may mean that there are only two practitioners looking after 8 children in a room. The minute that a child within that group needs 1:1 care, one practitioner is occupied and the other required to supervise the remaining 7 children. In the course of a day this may happen many times, with for example a child who misses the potty and needs changing, along with the cleaning of the area where the accident happened, or a child who…needs reassurance…This is in addition to routine nappy changing, preparation of snack and the myriad other tasks which need to happen for the day to run smoothly.”

Earlier, I was preparing to go on the BBC and I was so stressed that my daughter was still in a Hallowe’en costume when I was trying to get out of the house. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) talked about the ability to man-mark of the parent of two children, or even one, and I take my hat off to the early years educators who deal with multiple children.

I want to focus on childcare ratios, because that is the issue of the day. I know the Minister is completely seized of the issue as we have had many conversations, and I constantly take it to Cabinet—to anyone who will listen to me. We need wider reform. My message to parents and everyone present is that the Government’s suggestion to look at childcare ratios was just one part of a wider review of childcare; it was never going to be the only thing. I also think it is right that it is investigated fully, so that we can flush out and understand the evidence, with safety absolutely at the top of the agenda.

Improving childcare is future-building for our society and our country. It is crucial to the economy to get more parents into work, if that is what they want to do, in order to improve the productivity of this great country. We must stop suggesting that childcare and early years are an add-on to education. The Minister is in the Department for Education, and we are talking about year-zero educators in our early years settings. We have to value, pay and champion them as much as we possibly can. I look forward to hearing from the Minister.

Oral Answers to Questions

Siobhan Baillie Excerpts
Wednesday 28th April 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I first was made aware of the plan for a European super league on, I think, the Sunday night, and we acted decisively using the arsenal of legislative freedoms that we now have thanks to leaving the European Union, which the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) opposed, of course. We acted decisively to make clear that the UK Government took a dim view of this matter. [Interruption.] And the same goes for my chief of staff.

Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie (Stroud) (Con)
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My constituency of Stroud recently won the title of best place to live. There is much to visit there, including an historic lamp standard that was erected to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. Next year, our own Queen will mark 70 years since her accession to the throne. Will the Prime Minister join me in supporting the gift being proposed by Parliament to mark Her Majesty’s platinum jubilee?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I thank my hon. Friend for that wonderful proposal, and I certainly encourage all colleagues to support and contribute to her project.