Guernsey Press

Business groups back call for more free pre-school hours

BUSINESS leaders are calling on the States to increase its current provision of 15 free hours of education to children in their final year before starting school, saying that such a move would enable more parents to go back to work and give the economy a much-needed boost.

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Diane de Garis, the president of the Chamber of Commerce. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 31925937)

Chamber of Commerce president Diane de Garis said that it was important to get more people into work due to staff shortages, and not exploring the opportunity of expanding the current provision would be short-sighted.

‘It would be really poor if we didn’t at least look at how to add to the workforce and getting more local people working again,’ she said.

Mrs De Garis added that she thought the current scheme was prohibitive.

‘Many parents, particularly women, are just not able to work due to the high cost of sending their kids to pre-school. I would be in favour of the scheme being introduced before the final year of pre-school and having it means-tested,’ she said.

The Guernsey Retail Group is also asking the States to provide greater funding for childcare, arguing that increasing the size of the local workforce would mean an improvement in productivity and a boost for Guernsey’s economy, as well as helping address the shortages of labour in the retail sector.

Head of retail development Korinne Le Page said that the prediction of fewer people paying into the tax system by 2040 needed to be addressed.

‘We have calculated that there are currently 200 retail vacancies in Guernsey which we believe could be filled through encouraging and supporting islanders to either enter or re-commence working in the sector,’ she said.

The GRG’s calls come in light of the news that the UK government is to extend free childcare to all children between the ages of nine months and five years old by September 2025.

‘If the same policy was adopted here, it could make a real difference to many sectors locally, including retail,’ Ms Le Page said.

Education, Sport & Culture has rejected an extension of support.

‘The scheme is designed to support children with their development and progression into school. At this time there are no plans to review it,’ said president Andrea Dudley-Owen.