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Smoke & Mirrors ? A Government Speciality ! Promise One Thing Deliver Another : Child Care Policy Failing The Working ! - Page 3 - Carers UK Forum

Smoke & Mirrors ? A Government Speciality ! Promise One Thing Deliver Another : Child Care Policy Failing The Working !

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
Now education :

" Supersize " infant classes double over seven years.

The number of infant school children taught in “supersize” classes has almost doubled in the past seven years, amid concern that schools are flouting the law.

In England, 43,130 five to seven-year-old children were taught in classes of over 30 in 2011, but this had increased to 82,358 by 2018.

This represents 4.9 per cent of all infant school pupils, compared to 2.9 per cent in 2011, according to a Labour analysis of House of Commons research.

There is a statutory limit on class sizes for children aged between five and seven, meaning that any classes above 30 are falling foul of the law.

School admission regulations dictate that “No infant class may contain more than 30 pupils while an ordinary teaching session is conducted by a single school teacher”.

Every region outside of London saw a growth in the number of infant class sizes over 30, the research found. Overall, the number of children in Years One and Two who are taught by a single teacher in classes over 30 has increased by 91 per cent since 2011.
Cross-party MPs call on government to take " Urgent action " to stop nursery school closures.

" Ability of nurseries to provide support for vulnerable children is being seriously undermined."

As posted earlier , yet another Government flagship policy running into difficulties for the simple reason it does NOT work at street level ... shades of the Care Act again ???
A classic on the North / South divide argument :

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/20 ... -the-north

£40k spent hiding how rarely northern powerhouse minister visited north.

Government spent two years trying to conceal how infrequently James Wharton travelled to north of England.

Well worth reading the whole article ... they don't come much better.

The government has spent two years and £40,000 of taxpayers’ money trying to hide how little the northern powerhouse minister visited the north of England in his role, in what one prominent northern figure called “a blatant disregard for the principles of democratic accountability”.

In February 2016 the Guardian submitted a freedom of information (FoI) request to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) asking how regularly James Wharton, who had then been northern powerhouse minister for just over six months, travelled outside London.

The department flouted a requirement to respond to the request within 20 working days and did not provide a response for more than four months – at which point it denied the application.

The Information Commissioner’s Office then undertook an investigation, during the course of which it found that the department adopted “what appears to have been a strategy of wilful procrastination in order to obstruct a request for information”.

The DCLG appealed against the decision to the first-tier tribunal of information rights, where in early 2018 Judge Hazel Oliver ruled that the department must hand over Wharton’s diary.

From start to finish, the process took 26 months.

The department fought for so long to prevent the release of the information that two other men, Andrew Percy and Jake Berry, have since taken up the role of northern powerhouse minister, and the entire department has been renamed as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Sarah Longlands, director of IPPR North, a Manchester-based thinktank, said: “It is of course disappointing that the minister charged with the northern powerhouse spent so little time in the area getting to understand what’s important to the people, communities and businesses of the north.

“But the attempts to thwart access to information about the work of the northern powerhouse minister show a blatant disregard for the principles of democratic accountability.

I bet the Yorkie Post will be " Expressing an opinion " tomorrow ???
It just gets better and better ... or , should that really be ... worse and worse ?

NHS £20bn boost risks being spent to pay off debts, experts warn.

PM urged to write off £12bn in hospital overspending or extra healthcare will be unaffordable.

Theresa May is being urged to write off almost £12bn in overspending by hospitals or risk her £20bn NHS boost being spent on debt repayment rather than improving healthcare.

NHS experts are warning that promised expansions of cancer and mental healthcare will prove impossible because a large amount of the £20bn that the prime minister pledged this year will go to the NHS by 2023-24 will be used servicing historic debts.

The calls to wipe out £11.7bn of deficits and loans are being led by Peter Carter, who NHS bosses hired to help turn around two hospital trusts in Kent in 2016 and 2017, and come a week before the budget, in which Philip Hammond will explain how the government will find the £20bn it announced in June to mark the NHS’s 70th anniversary.

The debts “are a millstone which has to be removed from around the neck of the NHS”, said Carter, an ex-chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing. “Having to service the debt will significantly compromise the impact of the 3.4% [annual NHS budget rises May has pledged until 2023] to such an extent that new money will not enable the NHS to modernise; it will in effect help the NHS to stand still.”

“The impact of writing off the debt will have minimal effect on the national debt but will have a major impact on the ability of the NHS to maximise the new investment the government is promising”, added Carter. The NHS in England overspent by £4.3bn last year, while the 240 NHS trusts owe the Department of Health and Social Care £7.4bn in outstanding historic loans. NHS finance experts from the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust thinktanks blamed the debt pile on persistent NHS underfunding of the NHS.

Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents trusts, said hospitals backed Carter’s call. He said hospitals needed to be helped to get back to doing their jobs without ending up in deficit, as two-thirds did last year.

Extra money for " Extras " ... or simply to reduce that credit card debt ???
Nursery fees rise as free childcare scheme backfires.

Funding for flagship policy is too low to cover costs, say pre-school providers.

More than half of private nurseries have increased their fees in the past year, and experts predict further rises are on the way as nursery owners struggle to make up the shortfall caused by insufficient funding for a flagship government policy.

Official figures, published by the Department for Education (DfE) and analysed by Labour, show 53% of private nurseries in England have put up their fees in the past 12 months, along with around a quarter of school nurseries (28%) and childminders (25%).

The widespread fee increases follow the implementation in September 2017 of a Conservative manifesto pledge allowing working parents of three- and four-year-olds to claim 30 hours of childcare a week during term time (38 weeks a year) for free, even if each parent earns up to £100,000.

Nurseries and childminders repeatedly warned that the level of government funding allocated was insufficient and would force many childcare providers to raise fees, charge parents for “extras” they didn’t previously charge for – or go bust.

The DfE research suggests at least half of the parents who took up the offer, believing they would receive free childcare, are now being asked by their provider to pay additional charges, such as for lunches, snacks, special activities and outings. Even excluding these charges, 48% of parents eligible for the funding are still having to pay at least some fees each term: £76.50 per week on average. Among these parents, one in seven (15%) are actually spending more on childcare now than they did before their child started receiving so-called free hours, while 16% are no better off at all.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, which represents nurseries, said he was not surprised childcare providers were putting up their fees, which Labour predicts will impact over 700,000 children. “Systemic underfunding has left many providers struggling to break even, forcing them to choose between increasing fees and risking closure. And, with the national living and minimum wages set to rise next April, this financial pressure is only going to get worse. Only when ministers commit to increasing funding will providers be able to stop asking parents to pick up the government’s tab.”

The research reveals it is predominantly better-off families who are benefiting from the extra £1bn a year set aside by the government to fund free childcare. While the majority (58%) of families who earn £45,000 or more have taken up the offer, just a quarter (26%) of those earning under £20,000 have done so, suggesting childcare remains unaffordable for many low-income parents.

The government originally promised the offer would save working parents up to £5,000 a year per child.

Commenting on the figures, the Labour MP and shadow early years minister Tracy Brabin said: “The Tories’ flagship offer simply isn’t living up the promises they made in the election, and the consequences are being felt by parents across the country. Fees are rising, free places come with hidden costs, and too many families aren’t eligible for the support they need – while nurseries and other providers are being pushed to the brink of bankruptcy.”

Shazia Begum, 41, owner of the Brighter Futures nursery and pre-school in Malvern, Worcestershire, is one of those providers. She stopped paying herself a salary when the 30 hours offer was introduced. “It was either that or go bust,” she said. “If I had refused to offer parents 30 free hours, they would have taken their children to another provider – but the cost of providing those hours is higher than the government pays me.”

She says she used to pay her staff more than the minimum wage, but can no longer afford to. “I feel worried about the future of the sector – to provide a good setting, you need to recruit good-quality, experienced staff.”

Due to rising costs, she is planning to increase her fees in January but still does not expect to make enough to pay herself a salary. “Nurseries are being forced out of business by the government. I can’t afford to make any more sacrifices. If the government offers parents free childcare, why don’t they fund it correctly instead of making nurseries ask parents to pay?”

Minister for children and families Nadhim Zahawi said: “This government is doing more than any before to support parents with the cost of childcare. We are investing record amounts – about £6bn a year on childcare support by 2020. This includes about £3.5bn we plan to spend this year alone on all our free early education offers, to make sure as many children as possible have access to high-quality care.”
Perfect for this thread ... with Brexit looming ?

First , the contract awarded to a ferry company that has never run a ferry service ... nor are the ports ready to accept
a new service ... and now something interconnected :


For lorries queuing at congested Calais, no-deal Brexit looms large.

In the first of a new series, Lisa O’Carroll joins a British driver to navigate the " Frictionless trade " of the French port.

Simon Wilkinson, a British lorry driver, is surveying about 1,000 lorries amassing at the “queue for the queue” about half a mile from a French port. “This is frictionless trade on a Thursday afternoon in Calais,” he said.

Wilkinson runs a small haulage company in Kent that specialises in transporting frozen food. Like all hauliers, he is looking ahead to the possibility of a no-deal Brexit – and the customs and animal checks that could come with it – with some trepidation. “This is what it is like before you throw the spanner in the works,” he pointed out.

About 15 minutes earlier, Wilkinson took a detour from his pickup point in Belgium to see the site earmarked by France for the new border inspection post, where food and animals coming from the UK will be subjected to mandatory health checks.

But at the port’s planned border inspection post, no work has been done. It is an open field off the A16, the main road between Dunkirk and Calais, where there is no hard shoulder but there is evidence of people recently living on verges, where rain-sodden duvets and clothes are compacted into the dirt,

As we head to the port of Calais, the scale of the commercial operation unfolds, with lorries grinding to a halt in the “buffer zone” ahead of the four controls before the ferry.

Hard-sided refrigerated lorries are segregated from soft-sided curtain trailers, which range from small lorries carrying goods ordered the night before on Amazon and eBay to 44-tonne vehicles such as Wilkinson’s, which is carrying 24 tonnes of frozen vegetables from Belgium destined for British pubs, restaurants and schools.

After one-and-a-half hours snaking through a sea of lorries, we get to the weighbridge – the first check – then the “heartbeat machine”, which checks for stowaways, followed by British and French immigration controls, and finally a shipping office to register for the next available ferry.

There we will wait a further two-and-a-half hours. That we are queueing up with 11 other lorries in lane 155 – one of more than 500 lanes – illustrates how big a pinch point Calais is in the supply chain that keeps Britain’s car plants moving and supermarket shelves full.

“I wanted to make it common knowledge how congested Calais already is. It runs smoothly, but sometimes you can wait up to nine hours,” said Wilkinson.

“This is pure luck it only took an hour-and-a-half. A few hours later and it would be gridlock,” added Wilkinson, who runs a fleet of refrigerated lorries from Kent across the Channel every day, then brings food back.

For tourists accustomed to rolling on and off cross-Channel ferries, this is another world.

“When people complain that delays in Dover are going to impact their holiday plans, that’s small beer,” Wilkinson said. “This is my living 365 days a year.”

Wilkinson runs a fleet of 18 lorries at Harrier Express, employing 25 drivers. A day’s delay costs him £400 per lorry and potentially more if frozen cargo is left to rot at the side of the road.

What frustrates and angers him the most is the disconnect between Westminster and hauliers on daily business on the border – the Brexit frontline.

“At Manston, what on earth were we doing?” asked Wilkinson, referring to the recent government trial at a disused airport in Kent of an emergency traffic system in the event of Brexit gridlock in Dover.

“What were we doing? We were planning for failure, we are planning for walking off the plank – and why? We have really serious people like [the bank of England governor] Mark Carney, or Mr BMW or Mr JLR [Jaguar Land Rover], who employ tens of thousands of people, warning the government if you do this [leave the EU without a deal] then our business is going to relocate, but why aren’t they getting the credibility in the debate?” he asked.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, French authorities have warned a two-minute delay at the border could lead to 27,000 vehicles queuing on both sides of the Channel.

With so much uncertainty, Wilkinson is making his own contingency plans, and has been trialling a new route from Zeebrugge to Purfleet with “unaccompanied” lorries – where one driver takes a lorry to the ferry and another drives it off at the other end.

But he has discovered it will mean a 20% drop in his daily freight capacity because of the extra time involved. He would also have to set up a company in Belgium to run a fleet of drivers for the “unaccompanied” loads, an action that is far trickier than it is in the UK.

“But I’m hoping that we won’t be sitting on any motorways anywhere, that there will be proper lorry parking with toilets,” he said.

Between 6,000 and 10,000 trucks cross the Channel every day, and all checks – bar those of passports and for fraud and smuggling – are carried out on the French side because of limited space at the cliff-edged port of Dover.

While Brexiters have said Britain can choose to keep checks on goods and food to a minimum, those in the business are sure this will not be the case in the long term.

“We are getting ready for not just day one [of] no deal,” said a French political source. “We are working on the basis that checks might also be done on food going into Britain eventually, and because there is no space in Dover, that it might be done [on the] French side.”

But the best-laid plans could be undone by language issues, with knock-on delays as haulage is now dominated by Polish and Romanian-licensed lorries, with many drivers unable to speak French or English. In time, Wilkinson and his colleagues fear, queues of 1,000 lorries may seem a lot shorter than they do today.

Why is it most of us can see what our politicians cannot ???

The blind leading those that can see ????
There's more on transport ... from the NHS :

NHS plans alternative transport routes to avoid no-deal medicine shortage.

Letter to pharmacists says plans will " Maximise the ability for supply to continue unimpeded. "

Concerned ?

You will be if the brewery and distillery deliveries are held up !!!

Good idea for a police escort for those vital deliveries ???

Perhaps even the army if the police can't cope with demand ???

Now coming in so fast I can't keep up with 'em :

No-deal Brexit could see up to FIVE MILLION plane tickets cancelled' as airlines are accused of failing to warn passengers about threat of chaos.

Theresa May struggling to break the deadlock over how to go ahead with Brexit.

Air industry has warned five million tickets might be cancelled if there is no deal.

Consumer watchdog says airlines are not giving passengers enough information.

Yep , thick and fast :

Ferry firm amends bookings for extra Brexit crossings.

Thousands of cross-channel ferry passengers have had their bookings amended to accommodate extra sailings in case of a no-deal Brexit.

Brittany Ferries said timetables from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth were being modified to ensure "critical goods" could still be transported.

Some passengers took to social media after the firm got in touch to tell them their trips had been cancelled.

Brittany Ferries said about 10,000 customers were affected.
UK corporation tax cut to cost billions more than thought.

New HMRC forecast means 2% cut in rate to 17% will now cost Treasury £6.2bn in lost revenue.

The government’s planned cuts to corporation tax look set to cost the public purse billions more in lost revenue than previously thought, according to new analysis.

The tax rate on company profits is slated to be cut from its current level of 19% to just 17% by the end of the decade. But even before the planned cuts, the UK already had one of the lowest corporation tax rates in the developed world.

An analysis based on HMRC data suggests that the loss of revenue from the planned cuts, initiated by former chancellor George Osborne but supported by incumbent Philip Hammond, could add up to more than £6bn.

HMRC recently raised its estimate for the amount a 1 percentage point increase in corporation tax could bring in for the Treasury from £2.8bn to £3.1bn per year – meaning the plan to cut taxes by 2p in the £1 could cost about £6.2bn.

Hammond confirmed in the autumn that he would go ahead with Osborne’s promises, despite the need to find £20bn a year more for the NHS by 2023-24.

There has been mounting opposition to the planned tax cuts, particularly as Britain’s public finances could come under huge strain from a disorderly Brexit.

Rupert Harrison, a former adviser to Osborne who now works at City investment firm BlackRock, said last week on Twitter that it was “hard to see why further cuts to corporation tax are good value,” while Labour seized on his comments.

" Oh dear , we got our pricing wrong. Thankfully , it wasn't OUR money , it was YOURS ! "

" Thanks a bunch ! "
Tax-free childcare helps just a fifth of families.

Just 91,000 families made use of the new Tax-Free Childcare system in December, according to new government data,

That is far below the expected number. Official figures, analysed by the BBC, show the government had planned and budgeted for 415,000 families to be using the system by October 2017.

By December 2018, just 22% of that number had signed up.

The government urged families to see if they qualified.

The shortfall is partly because the full rollout was pushed back following technical glitches with its website, but almost a year after the full rollout, take-up is still far lower than anticipated.

And while the government had initially expected 324,000 more families to sign up, far more are potentially missing out. In total, an estimated 1.3 million could qualify for the help, meaning only about one in 14 eligible families has done so.

That's costing people money - the Office for Budget Responsibility had forecast spending £800m on Tax-Free Childcare in 2017-18, but that was revised down to £37m specifically because of low take-up.

Payment errors

In 2018, the Family and Childcare Trust's annual survey showed that the cost of a part-time nursery place for a child under two was £122 per week, a rise of 7% in a year.

Families who use Tax-Free Childcare receive £2 from the state for every £8 they pay in, up to a value of £2,000 per child per year.

The new scheme replaces Childcare Vouchers, which is now closed to new applicants. The government says Tax-Free Childcare is better than the old system as it is open to both employed and self-employed people, meaning about a million more families qualify for help.

It is also paid per child rather than per parent, allowing lone-parent households to get the same amount of support.

However, the scheme has suffered from technical glitches - including last year when 22,000 payments were not passed onto childcare providers - and the help available has been criticised for adding to parent confusion.

'Tangled web of support'

Julia Waltham, head of policy at the campaign organisation Working Families, says more should be done to help parents identify the best way to get help with their childcare costs.

"The reason for the low take-up of Tax-Free Childcare could be because parents have chosen to stick with employer-supported childcare vouchers; and we know from our own research that working parents are increasingly reliant on informal childcare support from family, often grandparents," she said.

But the fact remains that there are seven types of childcare support - each with different eligibility criteria and different ways of interacting with each other - available to parents and carers.

"This tangled web of support can be complicated, and difficult for parents and carers to navigate.

'Essentially free money'

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says not enough is being done to inform parents of their options: "When the market is getting behind something, they put money into communications and things happen.

"Tax-Free Childcare, however, is in the hands of the government, and so far there's every sign they're not throwing themselves behind efforts to let parents know about the free money on offer."

A government spokesperson said: "Tax-Free Childcare is a great offer for working parents and more and more families are benefitting from it. We're urging all parents to check the Childcare Choices website to see how much they could save, and to apply."

They added that the number of parents benefitting from Tax-Free Childcare had almost doubled since March last year and they were running a national campaign to raise awareness.
Parents face shock rise in childcare costs as government cuts bite.

Up to half of nurseries set to close or reduce services they offer, survey warns.

Parents will be forced to pay higher fees for childcare this year because of a lack of government funding, new research suggests. Nurseries and childminders are being driven out of business, while staff feel stressed, demoralised and even suicidal.

The Early Years Alliance (EYA), a membership organisation representing nurseries and childminders, has accused the government of turning a blind eye to the financial chaos hitting a sector dominated by low-paid female workers, which will be made worse when the national minimum wage increases by 5% on Sunday.

The government has frozen the rates it pays childcare providers to offer qualifying parents agreed hours of “free” government-funded care until 2020, leaving nurseries and childminders to shoulder the burden of higher wage bills while subjecting them to a real-terms funding cut.

A survey of EYA members, seen by the Observer, suggests two-fifths are likely to reduce staff over the next year as a result of this under-funding. Nearly half of providers fear they will go out of business in the next 12 months and 81% say they are so stressed about financial viability it is affecting their mental health. Six respondents said they had thoughts of ending their own life.

Many providers now plan to cut corners, while charging more. Of the 1,615 nurseries, pre-schools, childminders and out-of-hours clubs surveyed, 63% plan to increase fees and 40% will add extra charges for services, such as lunch and trips. Two-fifths will scale back staff training and 70% plan to spend less on equipment and resources. Almost a quarter plan to relax adult-to-child ratios.

“There is a crisis looming,” said Neil Leitch, EYA chief executive. “Parents and providers know higher ratios mean higher-quality childcare. Any relaxation of ratios will create a two-tier sector – those who can afford it have access to the right level of support and those who can’t, don’t.”

Nurseries in deprived areas, where parents cannot afford to cover the shortfall in government funding rates, are among the least financially viable. Children with special educational needs and disabilities are also less attractive to providers now: 15% said they plan to offer fewer places to these children over the next 12 months, reducing the need for specially qualified staff. “We will see marginalisation of some segments of the community. So if your child has special needs or you’re poor, you’re shifted off somewhere else,” Leitch said. “There is not enough funding and the government turns a blind eye to it.”

Last week Ofsted revealed that 1,000 childminders left the sector in the last four months of 2018, representing a 3% fall in numbers. Fewer than 40,000 now remain in business.

Tracy Brabin, Labour’s shadow minister for early years, said: “When settings are forced to reduce staff, the quality of education children receive suffers. It’s time the government listened and acted.”

There used to be 19 staff at Little Angels nursery in Uppingham in the east Midlands, but three were made redundant in the past year. Owner Lucy Lewin sold her home and borrowed £50,000 to invest in her business, but can’t break even on the rates the government pays her. She is operating at 40% capacity after she put up her fees to fill the funding shortfall,and lost 70 clients. On Monday her costs will increase by £1,000 a month after the minimum wage rises.

Lewin’s financial situation is taking its toll on her health. “I’ve been diagnosed with stress-induced irritable bowel syndrome. My consultant told me I need to reduce my stress levels,” she said.

She has trouble sleeping and works long hours. “There are days I would rather stack supermarket shelves. But I have a family to support, and the children in my nursery need me. We’ve got a lot of families whose children are under protection plans. If we weren’t here, they would have nowhere to go. We are that link between those children being safe and their parents coping.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are investing around £3.5bn on our early education entitlements this year alone – more than any previous government – to help parents with their childcare costs so that every child has access to a high-quality early education.”

“We recognise the need to keep our evidence base on costs up to date. We continue to monitor the market closely through a range of projects which provide insight into various aspects of the market, including staff costs.”