THE Scottish Government’s promise of free childcare to Scotland’s poorest families is “an absolute shambles” with many two-year-olds across the country losing out on places, the Scottish Conservatives have claimed.
Yesterday, the Scottish Government confirmed it is unable to guarantee that all eligible two-year-olds in workless families will be provided with the childcare promised.
The SNP said in January that young children from workless families would be able to access the extra provision, beginning from 1 August this year.
However, problems in implementing the scheme mean the legal duty for introducing it will now not come into force until the end of October.
The admission has been described by the Tories as “a major blow” to the SNP’s independence White Paper, which is underpinned by promises of extra childcare for parents.
Education secretary Mike Russell has so far refused to guarantee that all eligible two-year-olds will receive the extra care promised or confirm how much it will cost to upgrade the buildings needed.
Local authoriy group Cosla has warned capital costs might be as much as £114 million, almost double the Scottish Government’s initial estimate.
In addition, many local authorities have admitted they do not have enough places to accommodate the two-year-olds eligible for the free childcare.
Scottish Conservative young people spokeswoman Liz Smith MSP said: “The SNP rushed out this policy in January, and now, eight months later, parents still have no idea how many of these eligible two-year-olds will actually receive free childcare and how much it will cost.
“The Scottish Government has ordered councils to deliver on this policy but it is very clear that several are struggling to do so. Councils simply do not have enough places or sufficient accommodation.
“Parents in some of the poorest households have now been left worrying whether their two-year-old will actually get the childcare promised to them.
“The launch of this policy has been an absolute shambles.”
Angus, Midlothian and Moray have said they have no spare places in council nurseries, while Edinburgh said that it would be October before it finds places for those young children eligible.
Meanwhile, Aberdeen’s nurseries were all said to be full with significant waiting lists, meaning two-year-olds will be sent to family centres used for social work or health visitor referrals.
A Scottish Government spokesman last night said: “We have committed at least £280m over the next two years and are working with local authorities to deliver a sustainable and ambitious expansion.”