Government launches recruitment campaign for childcare staff
The Government has launched a £6.5 million-backed recruitment campaign to encourage people to work in the early years sector just two months before the first phase of its flagship childcare expansion begins.
A trial – which will take place in 20 local authorities in England from April – will also give new recruits and returners to the early years workforce a £1,000 cash payment shortly after they take up post.
But sector leaders and campaigners said the “Do Something Big” campaign has been launched “too late” and the proposals are “a drop in the ocean” compared to what is needed to support childcare reforms.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in March last year that eligible families of children as young as nine months in England will be able to claim 30 hours of free childcare a week.
Under the plans, working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare from April. This will be extended to working parents of all children older than nine months from September.
From September 2025, working parents of children under five will be entitled to 30 hours’ free childcare per week.
Children and families minister David Johnston told the PA news agency: “One of the things that people in the sector say to me is that too often people feel that they’re seen as babysitters rather than what they actually are, which is early educators who are playing a vital role in a child’s first five years.
“So what we’re trying to do both with the financial incentives – but more with the big national campaign – is get people to understand just how important these roles are and the difference you can make in shaping young lives at the earliest stage.”
He added that the Government wanted to test out the £1,000 “golden handshake” in some areas to see if it does encourage people who have worked in the sector to return, as well as increase new-starters.
The recruitment campaign by the Department for Education (DfE) will look to boost recruitment across the sector by highlighting different childcare career routes and progression opportunities.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “From April, hundreds of thousands of parents of two year olds will get 15 funded hours. This is good for families and good for the wider economy – ultimately putting more money in parents’ pockets at the end of the month.
“The fantastic nurseries, childminders and professionals across the childcare sector are central to the success of this rollout and our new recruitment campaign will support them in continuing to deliver the flexible and high-quality childcare parents need.”
Labour’s shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “This is a startling reminder that the Conservatives have offered a childcare pledge without a plan.
“Childcare staff are leaving in their droves, leading to nursery closures right across the country. Cheap bungs to new staff when existing workers are turning their back on this key industry will not magic up new places for parents.”
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “It’s important to stress that this campaign comes too late to support nurseries with the first phase of the childcare expansion which begins in two months. Campaigns like this take time to have a positive impact and the sector needs qualified and experienced staff now.”
She added: “The sector needs thousands more staff so we hope that the tax-free incentive will form part of a comprehensive workforce plan if the pilot is successful. ”
Joeli Brearley, founder of charity Pregnant Then Screwed, said: “These plans are undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but they’re a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed. The sector needs tens of thousands more early years professionals if it is to meet the demand for places.”
She added: “A one-off payment doesn’t deal with the fundamental issue that early years professionals leave the sector because the pay is dreadful and the work can be hugely stressful. The only way to sustainably solve the staffing crisis is to increase wages.‘’
Jacqueline Stratford-Parker, co-owner of Puddle Ducks Pre-School in Alvingham, Lincolnshire, told PA that providers in the sector cannot get the staff as early years workers are paid a “pittance”.
She said: “We won’t get people in it because we can’t afford to pay them. So the Government are paying us this money but we can’t afford to pay the staff. They’re just putting us on the national living wage. I can go and stack shelves for what I get paid and I don’t have to look after a real human being.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub