GlaxoSmithKline launches a new partnership with Save the Children to develop medicines to tackle child mortality in Africa.
Margaret Hodge is on the warpath. This week alone she called MPs lazy, criticised a £1bn overspend on academies and raged against tax avoidance. So who’s next in her sights?
Every age searches, however ironically, for heroes, and in a time lacking in such old-fashioned things, Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking, and, since 2010, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, has emerged as an unlikely candidate. Ever since she appeared on our TV screens last November, tearing strips off pale, suited, variously composed or stuttering men from Google, Starbucks and Amazon, she has been worth watching, for the theatre of it, and for something rarer: the vision of a politician freed from the party straitjacket and demanding in forceful, demotic terms to
Fourteen comedy and children’s pilot shows – including Alpha House and Zombieland – are to be put to the public vote on LoveFilm and Amazon.com.
Originally posted here: Amazon to pilot TV shows online
Web and phone games aimed at children that charge for extras are being investigated by the Office of Fair Trading.
View post: Web games get fair trading scrutiny
CINCINNATI, OH–(Marketwired – Apr 5, 2013) – At the Kings Ford Dealership in Cincinnati, OH, it isn’t all about just selling new and used cars in Cincinnati. It’s about community and helping others. Back in 2009, Bob Creed Jr., Director of Innovations & Technology at Kings Ford, took a simple idea and ran with it by turning it into an opportunity to make the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses come true. With the aid of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Bob and the rest of the team at Kings Ford were able to do just that. After brainstorming with family, friends, clients and coworkers, Bob landed upon the idea of gathering together everyone he knew personally and in his customer database that played golf to coordinate a sponsored event to benefit these kids and their families to make their wishes come true by putting together a charity event golf tournament. The outing has grown substantially year after year with a lot more individual donations and golfers, thanks to the help of volunteers and the support of Fairfield Green Golf Course, and to date they have raised over $43,000 and will be sponsoring two children in 2013.
Average cost rose by 6% last year and a nursery place for a child aged two or under is 77% more expensive than in 2003
Childcare costs in Britain are rising at more than twice the rate of inflation and have increased over the last 10 years, despite average earnings falling back to 2003 levels, according to research .
The Childcare Costs Survey 2013 found the average cost of childcare rose by 6% last year against a backdrop of 2.7% inflation, stagnant wages and increases in working tax credit payments, including the childcare tax credit, being pegged at 1%.
Anand Shukla, chief executive of the Daycare Trust, which produced the report, said: “It’s a massive financial burden … childcare costs for many parents can be higher than their rent or mortgage payments. We know many parents go into debt or put it on their credit card.”
A nursery place for a child aged under two rose by 4.2% last year compared with the previous 12 months to £4.26 an hour on average, equivalent to £106.38 a week for a part-time place (25 hours) and £11,000 a year for a full-time place, according to the survey. That makes a nursery place for a child aged two or under 77% more expensive in real terms than it was in 2003. For the over-twos, the yearly increase was 6.6% to £103.96 a week for a part-time place.
The steepest price rises were for childcare for older children, with 15 hours a week at an after-school club costing £49.67 on average, a rise of 9%.
For a family with two children, care in term time, before and after school, costs around £4,000 a year, according to the report. It says the cost of after-school clubs has risen on average by 88% in real terms over the last 10 years.
The government plans to make childcare less expensive by relaxing the number of pre-school children that nurseries and registered childminders can oversee but the report suggests that reducing the required ratios may diminish quality and have little effect on costs.
Shukla called on the government to simplify the funding system and extend the entitlement of 15 hours of free childcare to cover all two-year-olds and then increase the number of free hours in steps, first to 20 and then 25.
Currently the entitlement is available to all three- and four-year-olds but only 40% of two-year-olds.
A government spokesman said ratio changes would offer flexibility to providers. “High quality providers will be able to expand and more childminders will enter the market – this will mean parents have more affordable childcare.”
Regional Forum Focuses on Quality Early Education for All Children
School children will start learning about tax, debt and money management in lessons from September 2014, under government plans.
See the rest here: Finance lessons in schools from 2014
Not only will cutting red tape in childcare provision not work, it is far too important to be left to market forces
Liz Truss, the Tory childcare minister, was responding to a widely shared gripe among parents of young children last week when she set out the government’s aspiration for what she called “more great childcare”. But her plan for achieving this – cut red tape; sit back; wait for the market to provide – is a classic example of laissez-faire, supply-side economics at its most dangerous.
Mums who want to work find it a battle to find affordable care for their little ones, and the task is hardest for those on low salaries, for whom the cost is likely to swallow up a large proportion of their take-home pay. Giving a helping hand to stay on in the workplace is a neat way of reaching out to disgruntled female voters, who, research shows, have been hit disproportionately hard by coalition cuts.
It’s also sound dinner-party politics: get any group of north London mums together, and the cost of childcare is up there among the hot topics with which soft play centre serves the best coffee. No doubt the same is true for Truss’s chums in her Norfolk constituency.
But the coalition’s solution is to loosen the regulations that limit the number of children each childminder or nursery nurse can look after, provided they meet new, higher standards for qualifications.
It all sounds great: free up the providers of care to take on a few more kids, and the market will sort out the rest. And in principle, there’s nothing wrong with supply-side reforms of this kind: the inspection regime for childminders and nurseries is complex and onerous – why not just leave them to get on with their jobs?
But there are three problems with Truss’s approach. The first is that there’s no necessary link between nurseries and childminders being allowed to take on more children and lower prices. Many private operators have long complained that the subsidy they receive for offering care to three-year-olds barely covers their costs. They may simply absorb the money from taking on more kids into their profit margins, rather than passing them on to cash-strapped mums and dads.
Second, even if parents’ bills do fall as a result of the changes, that will leave very little leeway for the boost to carers’ incomes the government claims it would like to see. Many childminders and nursery workers are extremely poorly paid for a job that couldn’t be much more important or more challenging, and they’re operating in a market where unemployment is high and jobs hard to find.
Truss would like to see a professionalisation of early-years care, with staff rebranded as “early-years teachers”. But it’s difficult to imagine nursery staff having enough clout with employers to push up wages, even if they do have a couple of GCSEs to hand.
The Department for Education’s own figures, published alongside last week’s proposals, showed the average childminder in England earning just £11,400 a year, compared with £14,600 in Germany and £21,500 in Denmark.
If we expect self-employed childminders to pass on at least some of the benefits of taking on an extra toddler through lower prices, the flipside for them is onerous new responsibilities and a dramatic increase in productivity, for a fraction more pay.
Truss hopes setting up new “childminder agencies” will help them to share some of the costs of finding clients, liaising with Ofsted, and so on, but the hardest part of a childminder’s job is, er, minding children, and no agency’s going to share that.
The third reason to worry about this new, more lax regime is maintaining quality of care. Although it will mean some economies of scale for nurseries – they’ve only got to buy, kit out and heat one set of premises – childcare is not a production line, where turning out more can be done more cheaply.
While better educated staff may be very welcome when it comes to playing imaginative games with children, or introducing them to the alphabet, there’s no substitute for pairs of hands to do up little buttons, push buggies and give out cuddles. Managing six toddlers is more than a challenge – it’s a nigh-on physical impossibility, as my colleague Polly Toynbee pointed out last week.
Of course, parents will be able to “choose” whether to use a provider with a lower carer-to-child ratio, but if these become the norm, only affluent parents will be able to buy closer attention for their little darlings. Lower-paid families will be stuck with the new normal of sparser provision.
Truss was one of the five members of the Tory Free Enterprise Group who wrote Britannia Unchained, a slim-but-powerful distillation of the idea that if only Britain’s entrepreneurs could be set free from the dead hand of the state – and its lazy workers rouse themselves from their sofas – a new era of glorious economic expansion could be unleashed.
But the assumption that snipping a bit of red tape and tweaking a few financial incentives is the answer to every problem is part of a retro creed that should have been comprehensively crushed by the crisis.
Vince Cable, fortunately, managed to put a stop to most of the craziest recommendations of the Beecroft review, the thrust of which was that making it even easier to sack people in Britain’s already super-flexible labour market would create new jobs.
But Truss’s proposals show a faith in market mechanisms to deliver, simultaneously, better-paid workers and better care, which experience in a host of areas suggests will be sadly disappointed. Recent research from the IPPR suggests that directly funding childcare would be cleaner, simpler, and deliver returns to the taxpayer and the wider economy. Some things are too important to be left to the market: perhaps this is a case where we need a good dose of the, ahem, nanny state.