Row over new child care plans for Sunderland families

Sheila Turnbull (left) and Nicola Dunn of the Washington Private Day Nursery, Knoulberry Road, Washington who are concerned about new childcare commission plans
Sheila Turnbull (left) and Nicola Dunn of the Washington Private Day Nursery, Knoulberry Road, Washington who are concerned about new childcare commission plans
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CHILD carers have spoken out over proposed changes to the system which aim to make it more affordable to families.

A new report from the Childcare Commission suggests changes to the staff-to-child ratio in nurseries, children’s centres or other childcare facilities to reduce the cost of care.

Under the proposals one adult would be able to care for four babies, or six two-year-olds, compared to the current ratio of three babies to one adult, or four two-year-olds.

Parents on Wearside have given the suggestion a mixed reaction.

Sheila Turnbull, 56, has owned Washington Private Day Care for 12 years.

“We are totally against these proposals,” she said.

“It totally undermines all the recent progress on giving children high-quality childcare and nursery education, and could put children at risk.”

The suggestion from the commission would mean that carers have the responsibility of cleaning and feeding up to six-two-year-olds at once, as well as completing paperwork.

“It is stretched at the minute as it is,” said Sheila. “It will just be too much with the new ratios. Imagine having six two-year-olds all asking to be fed or given attention at once.

“It will get to the point where parents will have to make a choice between quality childcare or cheap childcare.”

Elizabeth Truss, the Early Years Minister, said the measure would bring limits in the UK in line with other European countries, would allow carers to earn more money and would therefore encourage more into the profession.

Sunderland City Council Conservative group leader Coun Robert Oliver backs the proposed changes.

“Childcare is currently a major expense for families which needs to be addressed and one of the simplest ways to do this is to increase the number of children each childcare professional can look after,” he said.

“It is vital that standards are maintained and unlikely that they would be adversely affected given that the increase in the ratios of adult to child are very small.”

Labour councillor Pat Smith, who is responsible for children’s services in Sunderland, said: “At this stage it is not evident that the changes will lead to a decrease in the cost of childcare as the proposal is that the staff will be higher qualified and higher paid.

“We will need to consider the proposals in greater detail. What remains unaffected is our commitment to providing families and children with the best support and learning opportunities.”

Sheila said: “We have no intention of changing our ratios and would strongly recommend all parents to ensure that any facility they use maintains previous statutory minimum staff ratios.”

PARENTS and carers from Washington Private Day Care gave their opinions on the changes proposed by the Childcare Commission.

•Linsay Hoseason, 29, from Lambton, has a two-year-old son who attends the nursery. She said: “It’s not too much of a problem for children my son’s age because they get easier to look after. He’s quite self-sufficient, and the older they get the more they like to play in groups.”

•Emma Carr, 26, of Hebburn works at Washington Private Day Care. She said: “It will depend on the children. If there are children with needs we need to spend more time with them, especially with toilet training and things like that. It’s just manageable at the minute with one-to-four, and we are still rushed off our feet.”

•Mark Cockburn, 33, from Houghton, has a one-year-old son Joshua who attends the private nursery. He said: “It won’t make much of a difference to me, but it will to the carers as it will make their job harder, but, I don’t think it would be that bad.”

•Paul Wilson, 38, from Blackfell, also has a two-year-old son also attends the nursery. He said: “It’s the same as anything – we want the best for their education and wellbeing. At the end of the day if it’s going to get the cost of childcare down, it will be a good thing.”

•Mum Kelly Lavary, 31, from Blackfell, also uses the nursery for her son. She said: “It depends on the carers themselves. If they can manage then it’s okay, but we worry that they wouldn’t get the attention they do now. I have a mixed feeling about it, but we definitely don’t want them to lose that attention.”