Charity urges free childcare for poorest families

A childrens' charity has urged the SNP to extend free childcare to Scotland's poorest families. Picture: PA

A childrens' charity has urged the SNP to extend free childcare to Scotland's poorest families. Picture: PA

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THE Scottish Government is being urged to extend free childcare to help families with two-year-olds who are living in poverty.

• Childrens charity Save The Children urges SNP to extend free childcare to families with two-year-olds living in poverty

• Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill will, if passed, provide 600 hours of funded childcare and early learning for three and four years olds, and two-year olds in care

The SNP administration has already put forward legislation which will, if passed, provide 600 hours of funded early learning and childcare a year for three and four-year-olds and those two-year-olds who are in care.

The commitment is part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill which was published last month.

But the charity Save the Children is calling on ministers to go further and ensure that poorer families with two-year-olds can also benefit.

Claire Telfer, head of policy, advocacy and campaigns for the charity in Scotland, will today urge MSPs on Holyrood’s Equal Opportunities Committee to “examine whether the Bill could go further and provide additional support for children living in poverty, in particular by extending the entitlement to all two-year-olds living in poverty”.

The committee is considering childcare as part of the examination of the issues women face in the workplace.

Save the Children also wants parents struggling with poverty to be given extra help with the costs of out-of-school care, suggesting this could be provided by introducing an entitlement for publicly-funded out-of-school care for five to 14-year-olds in deprived areas.

In its submission to MSPs, the charity further urged the committee consider if a Swedish-style system for childcare support could be brought in, with fees calculated according to income and those families on the lowest incomes not having to pay for childcare.

Ms Telfer said: “Lack of affordable, suitable childcare is a significant issue that determines parents’, particularly mothers’, ability to participate in the labour market and is a complex area of policy.”

She said childcare was a “vital service that supports parental employment”, adding that it should be seen as a “core element of economic policy as well as children’s policy”.

She stated: “Save the Children believes that the Scottish Government should prioritise measures to help parents living on the lowest incomes to meet the cost of childcare, as a first step in addressing the wider issues in relation to childcare.”

When the Bill was published last month, Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell said it would “improve levels of care and support to children and families across the country through an increase in free and more flexible early learning and childcare from 475 to 600 hours”.

Ms Campbell said: “As the First Minister has laid out, we are engaged in a transformation of childcare in Scotland, and have set the goal of matching the best standards of provision in Europe.

“The Children and Young People Bill is an important step down the path to achieving that vision, but it is also only a first step.

“I am glad that Save the Children share our ambition for our country, our children and our future.”

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