A leading think tank has called for a major overhaul of childcare in the UK to make it more affordable.

Conservative MP Elizabeth Truss compiled the report for independent think tank Centre Forum based on recent studies and argued regulation should be simplified and childminders allowed to care for more children at a time, to attract higher-paid staff.

The average family spends 27 per cent of income on childcare, making it the second most expensive country in the world to raise children.

Ms Truss said: "The coalition government has a great opportunity to simplify the provision of childcare and get better value for money for parents.

"Reform could lead to an increase in availability of flexible childcare and an end to spiralling costs."

Her key call was to alter the childminder to under-fives ratio from one-to-three to one-to-five as childminder places have dropped drastically to 245,000 in 2010.

Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller countered the reports claims, saying that the government is already offering "the right help" to parents by focusing on other areas.

"We want to make sure that more children who are living in families where there's one parent, don't live in poverty - and at the moment they're three times more likely to live in poverty if their parent isn't working, than if they're working part time," she said.

"The changes that we're bringing in are all about helping support parents to get that help they need to get a job that can fit around their family commitments."

In July 2011, the government set out changes to the early years curriculum that it said were aimed at freeing childminding professionals from bureaucracy and moving towards a "lighter touch regulatory regime". The changes, to be introduced in September 2012, include reducing the number of early learning goals from 69 to 17.

Read the report in full at www.centreforum.org/assets/pubs/affordable-quality.pdf 

Posted 21/05/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com