Stourbridge MP Margot James voted against protecting state childcare benefit for England’s poorest working families while holding a major investment in private childcare.
The MP sat on a Parliamentary Committee guiding the Government’s controversial Universal Credit plans and later voted against including child care costs for the poorest households under Housing Benefit rule changes.
Ms James’ obligatory entry in Parliament’s Register of Interests (below left) gives brief details of her major shareholding in the Childcare Corporation, one of the UK’s burgeoning private nursery empires, since she was first elected in 2010.
The MP’s register entry acknowledges she has at least £70,000 invested in the corporation that runs Kiddi-caru, a chain of premium price private nurseries in central and southern England.
The Childrens Society has called the benefit changes a ‘Parent Trap’, protesting that the exclusion of child benefits from part of the Universal Credit scheme will tip many thousands of poor working families into deep trouble.
The charity says: “The loss of support with childcare costs through Housing Benefit and potentially Council Tax Benefit is set to cost 100,000 of the lowest income working families up to £4,000 per year in support with childcare.” The Childrens Society’s full response is here. (pdf)
In the run-up to the change on Child Care benefit, Margot James sat on the Public Bill Committee on Child Care, attending all four meetings.
The Kiddi-caru chain has in the past attracted some criticism over allegations of sudden price increases and dismissive responses to parents’ concerns.
The Mumsnet internet site features a forum discussion in which a mother claims that the chain introduced mid-term price increases of up to 60 per cent, and alleges that they upset her family’s precarious balance of work, income and childcare.
Kiddi-caru describes its 36 nurseries as ‘premium’ establishments. Though the Kiddi-caru website does not disclose prices for places at its nurseries, parents are invoiced monthly for charges and are encouraged to buy branded ‘uniform’ clothing for their children, including teeshirts, fleeces and hoodlies.
There is also a range of pre-school ‘uniform’ garments and book bags that Kiddi-caru says will help older children prepare for senior school under its School Readiness Programme.
Childcare Corporation has previously advertised for nursery workers at an hourly pay rate from £7.50 , with ’Team Leaders’ paid up to £10 per hour, though recent advertisements now give no details of remuneration.
This story was updated on October 30 2018 to reflect Kiddi-caru nurseries’ growth from 20 centres in June 2017 to 36 in October 2018.