MANY Scottish parents are unable to return to work after having a child because of the soaring cost of childcare, a report has revealed.
The study, published today, found that the typical cost of 25 hours a week of childcare for under-twos has risen to £5,500 a year – accounting for 27 per cent of the average household salary.
Meanwhile, across other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, which include most of the European Union, the US and Australia, childcare costs just 12 per cent of the typical income.
The study, from Citizens Advice Scotland, found that the cost of childcare is not the only barrier for parents who want to work.
More than three-quarters of Scotland’s local authorities admit that there is not enough childcare for working parents in their area, compared with fewer than half of English local authorities.
There are also wide regional variations within Scotland. Costs for part-time nursery childcare north of the Border vary as much as £3,341 between different council areas.
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The report comes as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to increase free childcare if she is in power after the 2016 Holyrood election, while new parental leave regulations, which will allow mothers and fathers to share the first year off after a child’s birth, are today set to come into force.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie yesterday called for the creation of a new childcare taskforce to oversee improved powers in the wake of the Smith Commission, which gave Holyrood powers to vary the childcare portion of universal credit. “These bold new powers mean there is nothing standing in the way of the SNP delivering more childcare,” said Mr Rennie.
School holidays also cause an extra headache for parents, who have to find up to seven weeks of additional childcare during the summer – at a typical cost of £103.52 for a school or local authority holiday club or play scheme.
“The evidence is clear: childcare isn’t working for far too many families in Scotland,” said Keith Dryburgh, Citizens Advice Scotland’s policy manager.
“The most frequently cited problems we see are the huge costs. But lack of availability is also a problem in many areas.
“So in our recommendations today we are calling for the Scottish Government and local authorities to do more to make sure that affordable childcare is available across the country. The UK government should also do more through the tax and benefits system to help ease the burdens that working parents feel.”
The report claims provision of particular types of childcare – such as for disabled children, in rural areas and for parents with atypical work patterns, such as shift workers and those on zero-hours contracts – is even worse.
Just nine per cent of local authorities considered that provision in their area was sufficient.
The report also highlighted the practice of some Scottish local authorities – including Edinburgh, East Lothian and West Lothian – which close on Friday afternoons, as creating additional childcare requirements for families and putting further pressure on incomes.
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