A NEW body has been set up in a bid to promote “real and significant change” in Scotland’s childcare system.
The Childcare Alliance, which has the support of businesses and organisations in the voluntary sector, has been established to look at how the care of youngsters might be better designed, funded and delivered in the future.
In addition the Partnership Commission on Childcare Reform is being created to take forward the work of the alliance, and will work together with employers, families, communities and childcare providers.
The new alliance is being spearheaded by the charity Children in Scotland, whose chief executive Jackie Brock said “significant change” was needed in childcare.
But she stressed the debate about this needed to “go deeper” than just extending the amount subsidised childcare on offer to families.
Ms Brock said: “We need significant change in this country when it comes to childcare. We know that current provision is inflexible, unaffordable and inaccessible for thousands of families across the country affecting both child development, family prosperity and the economic output of the country as a whole.
“It is welcome that the issue has come to the forefront of political debate, but most of the discussion has centred around plans to extend subsidised childcare. It needs to go deeper than this.
“Through our new alliance and Partnership Commission for Childcare Reform we will be providing a platform for civic society and the business community to talk to each other about policies, practices and funding models that are sustainable and effective. Crucially, this is about driving forward real and meaningful change.”
She added: “There is energy and enthusiasm for this debate in Scotland - across political, public and business spheres - and we are delighted to be leading this work going forward.”
‘Practical way forward’
Colin MacLean, who has been appointed chair of the Partnership Commission on Childcare Reform, said it would work to “identify practical ways of organising, delivering and paying for good quality childcare”.
He added: “We know that families have different needs and that provision needs to be flexible; we also know we need to engage the wider civic society and the business community to identify how this can practically, feasibly and sustainably be delivered and funded.”
The alliance has been backed by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, whose chief executive Ross Martin said there were “a number of missed opportunities with regards to the parent workforce, with many being unable to return to the workplace due to childcare issues”.
He added this this “lost workforce directly impacts on the economic output and sustainability of our country”.
Mr Martin said: “We understand that both employees and employers need flexibility to identify what practically works for them. We welcome any discussion which gives employers a seat at the table and works to address the missing workforce whilst being mindful of the environment and context within which employers, of all sizes, work. “
The Scottish Government has brought in legislation that will extend the amount of free childcare available to at least 600 hours a year for three and four-year-olds, and the ‘’most vulnerable’’ two-year-olds, from August.
The SNP has pledged that after independence it would provide 1,140 annual care hours for one to four-year-olds, allowing more parents to return to work.
Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell welcomed the formation of the alliance saying: “The Scottish Parliament recently backed our plan to introduce more free quality childcare from this August and, in Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to an Independent Scotland, we outline proposals to transform provision and deliver universal pre-school entitlement from the age of one.
“We welcome this latest initiative, which reflects a developing consensus that more high-quality, flexible childcare brings many benefits for children, families, employers and to the wider economy and society.
“We look forward to the alliance’s contribution to our on-going work with the third sector, childcare providers and businesses, as well as our local authority partners, in delivering our widely-shared ambition for a progressive childcare system that can help make Scotland the best place to grow up.”