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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Cumbrian women unimpressed with Government's grants for new childcare businesses

A new pot of cash could entice “female entrepreneurs” to set up childcare businesses, as the Government battles to help more women return to work.

Joanne Routledge photo
Joanne Routledge

The £2million scheme was announced yesterday, and will see grants of up to £500 available from next April for people setting up nursery or childminding companies.

The money will be available to help cover legal and insurance costs, health and safety training and equipment, but one Carlisle nursery owner claims the money will be a “drop in the ocean”.

Joanne Routledge, set up Kinder Park Nursery, in Warwick Road, 21 years ago when there was “hardly any” help available.

“It depends on the business, but £500 these days won’t go very far,” she explains.

“It’s a good idea to encourage people into childminding, and to think about setting up their own childminding business – especially as there is a shortage in the local area.

“However, £500 is a drop in the ocean when it comes to setting up a nursery; insurance costs are huge, and you would need a lot more than that for health and safety training or equipment.”

Joanne adds: “It is simply not a big enough carrot for setting up a nursery.”

Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller said: “This is an injection of cash designed to stimulate the sector in tough times, the new scheme will provide more childcare places but will also help get up to 6,000 new childcare businesses off the ground.

“The childcare industry is already a major employer of women, and this scheme will provide huge opportunities for female entrepreneurs to start up and run their own businesses.”

The cash is not just designed to help budding businesswomen set up on their own though; the Government hopes that an increase in nurseries and childminders would mean more places for children, encouraging more women to get back to work.

Ms Miller continued: “There are more women in work than ever before and they are playing a vital role in our economic recovery, but good quality, affordable and reliable childcare is the key to even more women being able to work.

“More childcare options mean more women can take up jobs, help support their families and realise their own career ambitions.”

While Joanne believes the intentions are good, she has questioned the allocation of such a large pot of money.

“Maybe the Government needs to be looking more at supporting the nurseries already there,” she questions, “and seeing if they can expand the places they currently have. There is a high demand for high-quality nursery places.”

The nursery owner believes that rather than focusing on new nurseries and childminders, those in power need also to be making those already in existence more accessible to families.

“They need to be looking at making childcare more affordable,” Joanne continues, “rather than throwing this money into looking for people to start more businesses.”

  • Sam Pratt, 32, of Durranhill, Carlisle, has two children.

They are 18-month-old Evie, who currently attends Kinder Park nursery, and Erin, five, who is at school.

Sam thinks that £500 would not be enough to be able to set up her own childcare business.

“I think it would be better if they extended the existing services,” she says.

Mrs Pratt believes trying to encourage people to start their own services is also not a well-thought out idea.

“It is a lot more complex than you realise. I think this is £2million that’s being wasted.”

Mrs Pratt is a learning support officer at Carlisle College. She works for 18-and-a-half hours per week.

She would appreciate the opportunity to increase the number of hours that she works.

  • Donna Rogers, 35, lives in Carlisle city centre.

Her daughter, Jessie, who is 17-months-old, attends Kinder Park nursery and has done since she was six months old.

Donna feels £500 would not go very far.

“To be honest, if you are going to set up a business, £500 probably isn’t enough.”

She thinks the current provision for childcare in the city is adequate.

Before Jessie started at Kinder Park she sat on a waiting list but her mother was happy to do this because of the nursery’s reputation.

“I have never had a problem with childcare,” she says.

Mrs Rogers is a fitness instructor and works part-time.

She would be enthusiastic about a return to full-time hours.

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