‘OH WELL, it was nearly right,’ said my son when he got a maths question wrong. ‘It doesn’t really matter.’
‘What are you talking about?’ I replied. Nearly right is not right: it is wrong. Do you know what happens if one of the engineers working on space rockets gets something ‘nearly right’? The whole thing explodes on lift-off and the astronauts die. Do you know what happens if you are a few digits out when building a bridge? Ten years later it collapses, and people plunge to their death.
It seems I was a bit harsh on my son, as it turns out people in government also believe ‘nearly right’ on the sums is correct. The Tory flagship childcare giveaway is in trouble because there might not be enough money! Surprise! It’s all gone to the Man in the Olive Green T-Shirt.
The Times: ‘Rishi Sunak’s flagship childcare pledge is in jeopardy due to delays in allocating funding, staff shortages and issues with the IT system behind the scheme. Thousands of parents have been warned they will be unable to access the government’s flagship free childcare offer this year because of issues with the rollout.’
Imagine my surprise to read this. Shocked I was, shocked.
‘Senior Whitehall sources said lights were “flashing red all over the board” over the £4billion plan as nurseries warned that they will not be able to start the scheme in time. They have not been told how much they will be paid for each of the places on offer despite the fact it is due to be up and running in less than three months.’
Here is a little gem: ‘In addition, the Department for Education is also facing a £120million budget shortfall after miscalculating the cost of the scheme in its first year. It was forced to correct a mistake it made when allocating money to councils to fund childcare providers that would have resulted in them not being paid for all the hours they were being asked to provide.’
What’s that you say? I forgot to carry the 1? Oh, my bad. I was nearly right, and my teacher says that if I show my workings and I get it mostly right then I’d still get some points. Honestly, why bother? Why do we even bother?
(As an aside, I did read one of the comments on a previous TCW blog that ‘Laura Perrins seems always angry about something’. They’d be right about that: I am, because there is just so much to be angry about. Maybe if more people got angry, we would have fewer morons in office from Sunak all the way down to some fool who calculated a massive giveaway incorrectly.)
Also as one Andrew Marsh pointed yesterday on my child benefit blog, Sunak has already given £12billion to the forever war in the Ukraine, so if you are wondering why you can’t access free childcare for your nine-month-old, know that Sunak is always willing to find some money down the back of the sofa if it means he can have another photo-op in a helicopter.
Now, the bigger issue is that I am old enough, just about, to remember when putting very young children such as nine months old in nursery for long hours was actually something to be debated. It was considered, by some, to be harmful.
There were heated debates about it in the newspapers and on the telly box as to whether this was good for child development. It might even be – whisper it – harmful for a young child to be away from its mother at such an early age.
The Guardian in 2005: ‘However, group-based daycare is not without critics. A series of studies in the US and Britain – highlighted last year in the Guardian – have concluded that high levels of group-based care can have damaging effects on some aspects of emotional and psychological development for children under two.’
The Irish Independent, 2010:
‘Are creches bad for our children? TV presenter and clinical psychologist David Coleman says: “The more the child can be at home with their parents, the better. The evidence suggests that for a small infant and young baby it is better to be minded at home, either by the parent themselves or the next best thing is by a childminder in the child’s own home.” Up to the age of three, “the primary thing that you really want children to gain is a sense of security in their attachments.” The best way to achieve that is to have consistent care. “Usually it’s easier for that to happen when it’s just one carer looking after one child at that age.” If you have three babies to one carer, which you might find in a creche, it means that that person’s attention is potentially split three ways, he points out.’
This would never be published today. Never. It must be because infants and very young children have changed over the last decade or two. They are Über Menschen now – they can take on anything, even the pre-verbal ones. Toddling around in their nappies, super-babies that can take on any separation.
It was a controversial enough topic that the government, especially a conservative one, would never have considered shifting the scales by funding it. This was also back in the days when child benefit was universal. But those days are long gone now. Mothers looking after their children at home – what are, you some kind of dinosaur?
Yet again it just shows how much we have ‘progressed’, or how much we have hollowed out the private sphere if you ask us, in that many families on one income, where children are cared for at home, have not only been stripped of their child benefit, but they also fund the childcare of others. Oh glorious sunlit uplands!
Finally, we are told: ‘September is going to be an absolute shit show,’ said a Whitehall source. ‘There’s going to be parents that just don’t get their places.’ Parents? I thought it was the nine-month babies who were going to nursery. Honestly, it’s hard to keep up.