Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Childcare Is 'Harmful for the Very Young'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Childcare Is 'Harmful for the Very Young'

Article excerpt

Byline: NICHOLAS CECIL

GOVERNMENT minister Beverley Hughes sparked a row today after she said that putting very young children in childcare is not in their best interests.

The remarks by the Children's Minister are likely to unleash a fresh debate about the effect - and possible harm - on children of putting them in nurseries rather than parents staying at home to look after them.

Speaking at a conference fringe meeting, she called for more flexibility in the workplace to give families more options on looking after children and stressed that fathers needed to play a greater role.

"I don't think we can square the circle unless fathers are equally and practically involved in the sharing of care and the work that families have to undertake," she added. "I'm concerned that unless we do focus on fathers, then women going out to work, kids in childcare, sometimes very young children, for whom I don't think that's the best option frankly, those choices aren't available."

Concerns are growing about the effect of childcare on babies and toddlers as the number who spend most of each working day in nurseries has risen by nearly a third in five years.

More than 700,000 children are at a nursery for more than four hours a day.

More than half of mothers with children under two now work fulltime or part-time. One in five of the children in fulltime nursery care is under the age of two and more than four out of 10 are under three.

Some sociologists believe that sending young children to a nursery fulltime can make them more aggressive and hinder their academic progress.

Shadow children's minister Tim Loughton hit out at the Government over its childcare policies, accusing it of "forcing" parents back to work as quickly as possible after the birth of a child through the tax credit system.

He added: "Now we have the Children's Minister questioning whether that's in the best interest of children. …

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