I have been looking for a house since we sold ours last November and so the issue of housing in London is very real to me. I have been shocked by the cost of renting and buying in the city and the potential fate of so many who will soon be unable to afford to rent, let alone buy. London homes cost double the national average, rents are twice as high and prices in supermarkets are 7% higher.
It is a sad indictment of a society that has created a situation which means our young cannot afford to live in the city that they were born in. As someone who had to leave their own country to get work, I am loathe to see my own children forced to live far away. Already, my eldest son has spent the last three years in Southern China and I don’t want the other two to feel obligated to leave in order to be able to afford to rent a flat.
Unfortunately, this is also the dilemma that faces so many Early Years staff in London. Should they stay and struggle or move out and have the chance of a home? It’s a situation we are seeing more and more as we try and recruit for nurseries in Central London and the more expensive boroughs. I gave a speech on staff resilience to the Headteachers of Richmond last week and the key issue for them is the problem of recruiting staff into a borough where housing and rents are so astronomically high. The issue is then compounded by travel costs as staff have to live further and further out of London and travelling into zones 1, 2 and 3 becomes prohibitive. Staff also have to deal with the battle of delays on public transport, with some services experiencing ‘severe delays’ almost daily – I recently had a twitter tirade at South-West(Worst!) Trains.
For Early Years staff, the situation could be helped if the Government paid the full cost of childcare rather than subsidise the cost of the “free offer”. Don’t’ get me wrong organisations such as LEYF are very keen to do our duty and view the entitlement as a valuable way to help children access high quality childcare. However, a fair days pay for a fair day’s work is my motto and £ 5.09p/h or £3.66p/h is neither fair nor just. Paying us the correct cost of childcare means we might be able to pay our staff enough to stay employed. The Headteachers of the Walsall Nursery Schools visited last week and were shocked to find that their funding for the two year old offer was higher than we get in London. They could certainly agree that the costs of living and working in London are higher than in Walsall.
Childcare is becoming more and more of an infrastructure service which is needed to support the employment of women in local and national economies. Yet, despite this are we expected to subsidise high quality childcare but be unable to pay our staff enough to enable them to live locally? No one is doing anything to help. I was shocked recently to see that one of the flats for sale on Homes under the Hammer was an ex keyworker home. How can that be? These homes should be protected and not sold off! (endthegreathousinggiveaway.com)We need more key worker homes for nursery staff and they should be locked in indefinitely. They are not investment properties – surely we have enough of those?! I have yet to understand why the Mayor of London seems to think these investment properties are of great benefit to London; to the ordinary mortal they represent high rents and no investment in the local community.
Tessa Jowell wrote in the Evening Standard last week that London needs a pay rise. She was shocked by the statistic that one in five people have a job that does not pay enough to live on. She notes that low pay is a feminist issue as it mostly affects women. In London, £4billion a year is paid in tax credits to Londoners subsidising all those multi nationals who keep wages low and demand untapped immigration so that they can force more people into economic slavery. Tessa, like myself, wants a Living Wage for London (£9.15p/h) but unless she is able to persuade the Labour Party and the Government to pay for the actual cost of childcare then her words are unfortunately just going to be empty rhetoric for Early Years staff.