Day care will lead to the mass institutionalisation of the youngest, most vulnerable children, according to a book from the right-wing think-tank, the Institute for Economic Affairs, writes Diane Spencer.
The campaign for day care for young children is "like a juggernaut racing downhill. It carries an unlikely band of fellow travellers including feminists, industrialists, trade unions, left-wing academics and right-wing Government spokespersons," says Patricia Morgan, the author.
Childcare is wrongly seen as the key to economic success, the solution to the demographic crisis, the basis for social equality, the answer to every woman's dream, a remedy for poverty, crime, educational failure and the basis for children's success, she says.
Ms Morgan, senior research fellow on the family at the IEA's health and welfare unit, says the case for day care "is far from watertight", and points to the increasing awareness of how unsatisfactory and dangerous institutions are even for older, problem, neglected or unwanted children.
Her book, Who Needs Parents?, criticises research in the UK and the United States. Evidence from this and other countries, ignored by vocal childcare lobbyists, showed that most mothers preferred to look after young children themselves.
Ms Morgan says parents should be able to choose whether or not they wish to work outside the home. Some women prefer, and have the right to arrange alternative care for their child. But no government should encourage or coerce mothers into work unless it can ensure that quality childcare is widely available.
"The Government would do well to enhance the opportunities for parents to care for their own children," she says Who Needs Parents? The effects of childcare and early education on children in Britain and the USA by Patricia Morgan is available at Pounds 9 from IEA, 2 Lord North Street, London SW1P 3LB.