Nursery cost at RHUL – Letter of petition
We would like to start this letter by thanking the College for its efforts to set up a new work-place nursery on its premises. We are aware that this has required considerable effort by diverse staff on the part of management. However, although there will be advantages in terms of access to places for College staff and students, the fees for full-time nursery care are unfortunately still very high at £1250 per month for a place for children of staff (even after tax allowances for 40% tax payers, the cost is still close to £900 per month). Given the added pressure on housing and cost of living in this area, these fees constitute a very large burden for staff. Students will benefit little, if at all, from tax allowances and the burden will be even greater for them. Staff at lecturer and early senior lecturer level, who are most likely to have young children in need of nursery provision will benefit less from tax allowances than would more senior staff paying higher rates of tax who are less likely to have children of nursery age. If students or staff need to have two children in nursery, then the fees become financially unsustainable.
Other universities in Greater London also face this problem, and have chosen to help their staff to raise families while working. Imperial college, for example, with higher space costs than Egham, heavily subsidises the nursery and charges only ~£600 per month to staff after salary sacrifice has been included. It also subsidises students without salary so that they receive further reductions in fees to compensate for the lack of tax relief (see e-mail (link) from Imperial’s nursery manager). These are far more affordable costs for young staff and students.
This problem has long been known at RHUL. For example, the Women in Science group (link) produced a report in 2009 which noted that:
· “RHUL’s nursery provision was by far the most expensive of the 11 HEIs for which data was collected. Compared to national figures, in Surrey childcare is expensive and Little Echoes is following the market in setting its fees which have recently been increased. It is clear that other HEIs substantially subsidise nursery fees (e.g. Imperial – charging 2/3 of the RHUL cost for nursery provision in central London!).” (page 20 of the report. Page 21 is showing the table compiled in 2009).
· “Anecdotal evidence indicates that the quality of care at Little Echoes is excellent but, at a monthly cost of approximately £1,200 per child, it is prohibitively expensive for more junior staff.“ (page 5 of the report).
· “Serious consideration needs be given to the provision of possible College subsidy of nursery fees comparable to that which is available at other HEIs.”(page 8 of the report).
The research we have done on current actual nursery costs at HEIs points to the same problems as those indicated in 2009, even once the work-place nursery and the new salary sacrifice scheme have been put in place.
Given all the evidence showing that the nursery fees have been a long-standing problem for staff we urge you to take action to solve it. Every year young staff and students (men and women) decide to go to other HEIs, give up work or take different career paths due to the huge financial burden of childcare costs added to the high cost of living in the vicinity of Royal Holloway. Many of these are brilliant individuals whose potential contributions to the College are lost. The childcare cost problem is relatively easy to solve and it would send a strong message of support to students and staff.
The members of UCU and the Students’ Union, have unanimously voted at recent General Meetings to support a campaign to lower the nursery fees. This letter is to ask you to enter into negotiation with the RHUL UCU branch, the SU and the Women in Science Steering group to find alternative ways to reduce the nursery fees to levels that allow staff and students to keep working and yet have a family.
Dr. M Pérez-Gussinyé, Senior Lecturer
(Earth Sciences), Athena working group representative, UCU member
Professor Clare Bradley Equalities Officer, UCU at RHUL
Professor Liz Schafer Executive Committee Member, UCU at RHUL
on behalf of the UCU executive committee at Royal Holloway,
Jamie S Green, Vice President (Communications and Campaigns)
Sidonie Bertrand-Shelton, (Equalities and Liberation Officer)
Kenny Aruwa, Vice President (Education and Welfare)
Ian Stewart (Student Activities)
on behalf of SU at Royal Holloway.
and the following staff and students signing our petition to you: