Save our nurture room. Photo credit: Triangle Parents Forum
Parents in Tottenham priced out by rise in childcare costs
The cost of childcare at the council-run Triangle Chidren, Young People and Community Centre in Tottenham has increased by up to 70%. Parents were given approximately seven weeks notice about the fee changes, which come into effect from September.
Childcare fees for two to three year-olds at the centre are increasing from £205 per week to £344 per week from September at Triangle. Some two year olds are eligible for 15 hours free childcare, which will mean the cost to parents is reduced. In addition, places for children under the age of two will be removed from January 2018.
Jenika Cracchiolo has a son aged two, who has been going to Triangle since he was 10 months old, and a three-month-old daughter. Cracchiolo had planned for her son to continue being looked after in the two to three year-olds’ room from September and for her daughter to go into the nurture room for under-twos from early next year.
She explained: “There isn’treally much option for us. In our local area, there is no under-2 provision… The rate increase is insane. In what other market would a rate go up 70%? It is so much. I think all of us were expecting an increase and that’s ne, but it is just so much.
“If they [Haringey Council] would have consulted with us earlier, there might have been some other models we could have implemented, especially to keep the under-2s room open… We could have come to a better solution, but time has run out.”
Since 2006, government policy has been that councils should commission rather than directly provide childcare, and council-run provision should be seen as a “last resort”. As a result of this, many local authorities have phased out directly provided childcare. The government announced its new national funding formula for early years in December 2016.
In what other market would a rate go up 70%?
Cllr Elin Weston, Haringey Council cabinet member for children and families, said: “Under the government’s new national funding formula for early years, Haringey has lost more than £1.4 million previously used to subsidise the cost of our childcare places. Unfortunately, it is simply not possible for us to bridge the gap in the face of on-going budget reductions across all services, caused by government cuts to our overall budget of more than 40% in recent years.
“The high cost of offering child- care places for 0-2 year-olds, and the loss of subsidy means we would have to charge in excess of £500 per week for this kind of care, making it unaffordable for most local families. We therefore let parents know this summer that we would be discontinuing 0-2 year-old provision from January 2018, by which time the majority of children currently enjoying an under-2s place at Triangle will have made the transition to the 2 to 3 year-old age group.
“In the meantime, we are freezing fees for all existing under-2s at Triangle. We have been meeting with the parents of children directly af- fected to discuss their options.”
Ian Ferguson is the co-chair of the Triangle Parents Forum. The Forum has met with Cllr Weston and others from Haringey Council. He said: “At the moment they have not agreed to delay any of the changes. We laid out to them that what they are proposing to do is going to make the business really unsustainable. It is going to really hurt the community because they don’t have any plan for how they are going to keep the build- ing running when people cannot a ord it and when it doesn’t o er the services people need.
“They are holding the line that because of budget cuts from central government they have no more money to delay implementing their fee increases. We asked for them to work with us and come up with a long-term solution that works with families. So far they’ve indicated they are willing to talk to us but they are not prepared to delay.”
The results of an equality impact assessment carried out by Haring- ey Council concluded that the fee in- creases being implemented would have a disproportionate impact on women, lone parents, working families, the BME community and families with disabled children, ex- plained Ferguson.
Triangle Children’s Centre is described as a ‘community hub’ by parents whose children attend it. Cracchiolo said: “Local community groups go there, they have after-school clubs, the councillor surgery. It’s a meeting place for the community… The teachers are really loving and supportive. They felt like family and that was something really important for us because we don’t have family here in London.
“When I was pregnant with my second child I was really sick, hos- pitalised from really bad morning sickness. It was the people we’d met at the Centre who took care of my son, picked him up from school, and made sure he had dinner when I wasn’t able to. If you don’t have family in London or friends that are parents, it can be pretty isolating as a new parent.”
Nicole Davis has four children, one of whom attends the Triangle Children’s Centre. She is also a former employee at Triangle and is currently in her second year at university. She told the Tottenham Community Press (TCP): “I wanted to better myself. I’m doing criminology and psychology and want to eventually be a counsellor.
“But is there any point in me going to university? I can’t afford the nursery costs. It’s too high. My husband is currently doing a trainee apprenticeship. I can barely pay for everything else. I’m stuck.”
Haringey Council has informed TCP that there are currently 36 two to three year-olds registered at Triangle. There are also nine children who currently access under-twos provision who will have turned two by January 2018 and three children registered for under-2 provision.