In a speech to the National Family and Parenting Institute (NFPI) today, Liberal Democrat Leader, Ming Campbell called for a profound change in the way that family-centred policies are developed. He proposed that policies can only be family friendly when they put support, care and value for individuals at their heart. He described this as the Ethic of Care.
Ming insisted that for too long politicians have sought to prescribe how people should live their lives. He declared that rather than lecturing, the state should focus on building a stable environment in which families of all types can thrive.
Addressing the NFPI, Ming outlined Liberal Democrat policies that put ethic of care into practice by: helping to strengthen family relationships; coping with family breakdown; and raising the standard of childcare provision.
In a diverse and changing society we must all recognise a duty to protect the vulnerable, to promote their welfare and to secure their long-term interests. That can be described as the ethic of care.
For the majority of parents and carers – no matter what their circumstances – access to childcare is a real concern.
Parents have a right to know that when they entrust others with the welfare of their child, that they will receive the stimulation, the encouragement and above all, the care that they would wish to provide at home.
That is why I support a new national standard for quality childcare. In Denmark, those working in childcare need a degree. In Britain, they need no qualification at all. And that is not acceptable. Because childcare is more than just babysitting: it is a career choice … a profession. And that means that it should be treated as such.
We should require all childcare staff to gain at least an NVQ qualification. We will require teachers for the Foundation Stage (3-5 years) to undergo training. And we will require those seeking specialist skills to train as Qualified Early Years teachers: a new qualification that we will establish. We will also establish a professional body to cover all early years professionals.
By professionalising childcare provision, we can raise the standing and standard of the service.
Politicians are not-equipped to lecture on how people should raise their children. But where the state plays a role in family life, it must do what it can to help parents build a stable environment for themselves and their children.
Tomorrow’s adults will only be happy and secure citizens if we nurture them today. We have a duty to treat our children in accordance with the ethic of care.