Zoe Williams misses the obvious

OK, so child care is too expensive.


In fact children are impossible to make money out of. Average nursery fees are £177 for a 50-hour week, which is £3.54 an hour per child. Ofsted regulations require a ratio of one adult per three children under two years old, but staff need a minimum of NVQ level 2, and a manager needs level 3, plus two years\’ experience. So you couldn\’t get them for minimum wage. I haven\’t even factored in overheads or bought any toys.

So, let\’s relax those regulations and make child care cheaper, shall we?

Vast numbers of children, in fact, every generation before this one just crawling off its potties, was raised by people without their NVQs, with adult to toddler ratios of whatever they damn well wanted.

Without armies of clipboard wielders from the council, without in fact much interference from the State at all.

Perhaps it didn\’t work perfectly but work it obviously did, as that current generation of filled potties shows us. Enough survived that State free childhood to breed again after all.

Or if you\’d prefer it in the economics of the nursery, if something is too expensive, why not try working out why it\’s expensive and then try to reduce that expense?

20 thoughts on “Zoe Williams misses the obvious”

  1. Perhaps – just perhaps – it just costs that much to ensure our children are supervised in a safe environment?

    That the regulations, ratios, minimum qualifications and inspections are a welcome enhancement which provides peace of mind and thus value for money?

    And another way of reducing the costs to the end consumer would be to nationalise, of course.

  2. I’m surprised you got past the first paragraph without blowing a gasket:

    that many low-income families simply can’t afford for both parents to work. I went on Sky Sunrise at some improbable time to talk about it, and Eamonn Holmes said: “Of course, private nurseries are getting rich.” To which I replied, “That’s quite right”, while thinking I actually have no idea how to make money out of a nursery but someone must be getting rich, surely.

    That says it all about how policy and public opinion are formed. Opinion former goes on telly and agrees with ignorant presenter because they said something that opinion former wants to agree with.

    To be fair to her she did go away and look at the problem, but now we have whatever percentage of the population that watches Sky confirmed in their ignorant belief of rip off Britain. No doubt this bollocks will be repeated more often than her reality figures.

  3. It would be interesting to see figures showing if a family is better of with the mother not working during the nursery years rather than working and having to pay nursery fees.

  4. “Perhaps – just perhaps – it just costs that much to ensure our children are supervised in a safe environment?

    That the regulations, ratios, minimum qualifications and inspections are a welcome enhancement which provides peace of mind and thus value for money?”

    And yet, children are still injured – and die – despite all the regulations and restrictions…

    “And another way of reducing the costs to the end consumer would be to nationalise, of course.”

    Yes, just what we need, more civil servants to carry! That’ll reduce that debt…

  5. ‘children are impossible to make money out of’
    Not sure I agree with this. A woman I know has two nurseries in Rutland and is currently shopping around for a £1.5 million house and a ski chalet. I mean, maybe that’s not real money but it sounds OK to me.

  6. > So, let’s relax those regulations and make child care cheaper, shall we?

    Yes, the current situation is insane, including after school clubs. There, again, there are adult-child ratio rules, and a requirement for a minimum of 2 adults to be present (which is a killer, for small clubs at small schools). That is, unless it is sport-related, in which case you only need one adult (so there are limits to their insanity, which they replace with incoherence).

    Given that we’re supposed to be on a national money-saving-and-regulation-burning jag, these rules should be a prime target. But they won’t, because one cute fluffy bunny might get hurt. I’d vote for anyone who was prepared to abolish ofsted.

  7. BenM – the problem is that we don’t know whether they provide value for money, because it’s not legal to offer less well-supplied nurseries.

  8. All I want is for you day care people to make less so I can keep more of what I make. That, or for the government to subsidize me directly.

    Is that wrong? No one told me that is wrong.

  9. Indeed. Yet another example of govenment regulation making costs multiples of what they should be. The economist rule of thumb is that regulations cost the regulated 20 times what it costs to hire government inspectors. (Housing and electirc power are both industries where the customer pays 4 times the natural cost and I suspect nursery care is of the same order – this then pushes up all related prices – I believe we could double everybody’s real incomes just by sending all these busybodies on gardening leave)

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  11. G.K. Chesterton's ghost

    If people cannot mind their own business, it cannot possibly be made economical to pay them to mind each other’s business; and still less to mind each other’s babies. It is simply throwing away a natural force and then paying for an artificial force; as if a man were to water a plant with a hose while holding up an umbrella to protect it from the rain. The whole really rests on a plutocratic illusion of an infinite supply of servants. When we offer any other system as a “career for women,” we are really proposing that an infinite number of them should become servants, of a plutocratic or bureaucratic sort. Ultimately, we are arguing that a woman should not be a mother to her own baby, but a nursemaid to somebody else’s baby. But it will not work, even on paper.
    We cannot all live by taking in each other’s washing, especially in the form of pinafores. In the last resort, the only people who either can or will give individual care, to each of the individual children, are their individual parents.


  12. The article was full of lies and propaganda, which I pointed out in the comments.

    Blogger is still not working, all very depressing. My new one is at WordPress.

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  14. Has she ever employed a babysitter?

    Did she check if they NVQs?

    p.s. She probably wants babysitting regulated.

  15. The bottom line is this – childcare if this type cost pretty much £1k a month in London. Duct up that between staff, buildings and paperwork and there is a profit. Nationalise it and the costs will double. After all a Child Care Coorindinator in the Mational Childcare Service deserves to send her children to private school, eh?

    Mind you, this means anyone unfortunate enough not to have a k in spare change will go on the good old black economy. But no trouble. Out of sight and out of mind. Some of those people wouldn’t think to buy oranic guacamole – probably drink Costa Coffee!

  16. maximum three children under two years old per adult

    So if a couple has quads (or 2 sets of twins in quick succession) then hubby can’t leave wifey alone to look after them, because that would break the childcare ratio?

    OK, so the law doesn’t apply to your own children – but why’s the principle different?

  17. And as for G K Chesterton, much as I enjoy reading his books, I never understood this idea that “we cannot all live by taking in each other’s washing”.

    Surely that’s all we can do? We can only supply goods and services to each other (unless there’s some secret exports to little green men on Mars that no-one’s telling us about).

  18. My parents found childcare unaffordable too – so they looked after me instead, principally my mother.

  19. Little Teds nursery got good reports from the regulator Ofsted. Others had concerns, but were effectively overruled by the ‘experts’, leaving children open to abuse.

    Perhaps regulation causes more harm than good.

  20. Richard: yes, but not the same goods and services. We have to specialize else there’s no point.

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