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Childcare 'needs to be overhauled'

Childcare in the UK needs to be overhauled to make it more affordable and of a good quality for families, a report suggests.

The average UK family now spends more than a quarter of net income (27%) on childcare, according to a report by MP Elizabeth Truss for the CentreForum think tank.

But she says that recent studies have shown widespread problems with quality, price and availability.

Ms Truss, Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, claims that while the number of nursery places has increased since 1996, the number of childminder places has dropped drastically in the same period to 245,000 in 2010.

The report argues that this has led to price inflation, while at the same time, becoming a childminder is now fraught with red tape.

It calls for childminders to be allowed to take on more children at one time. Under current rules there has to be one minder for every three children aged five or younger, the report claims.

This ratio should be changed to one adult for every five children aged five or under, it says.

This would attract higher paid staff to the profession, improving the quality and availability of childcare, or make it more affordable, and make the UK comparable to other European nations.

The report also calls for a single funding system and for childminders to be able to register with a local agency, nursery or network which would take responsibility for inspection and training and be regulated by Ofsted.

Ms Truss said: "The coalition Government has a great opportunity to simplify the provision of childcare and get better value for money for parents. Reform could lead to an increase in availability of flexible childcare and an end to spiralling costs."

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