Calls for fresh look at SNP childcare policy
The Scottish Government is facing further pressure to conduct a full audit of its flagship childcare policy amid further claims that children are not able to access the hours of nursery care to which they are entitled.
Scottish Labour added its voice to calls for a reform of the system, which offers 600 hours a year of free childcare for three and four-year-olds in Scotland.
A report released this week from campaign group Fair Funding For Our Kids (FFFOK) claimed that the current scheme, which offers one block of three hours of nursery care a day – and no full-day places – leaves many parents unable to fit work around the statutory childcare provision.
The group, which met First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier this week and has a follow-up meeting in August, has also claimed that many children are not able to access a place at “partnership nurseries” – private nurseries approved by the state where parents can pay “top up” fees to keep their child in for a full day. It warned of a postcode lottery of childcare provision.
Ms Sturgeon has said she wants to move towards a system of effective full-time universal childcare in order to get a generation of Scottish parents back into the workplace.
Cara Hilton, shadow children’s minister, said: “Mums and dads deserve a better deal on childcare from this SNP government. While the SNP made bold promises to parents on childcare, many parents are caught up in a funding lottery and missing out on the childcare funding they’ve been promised.”
Ms Sturgeon has also faced criticism from Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who used First Minister’s Questions on Thursday to quiz her over the policy.
A spokeswoman for FFFOK said: “It is great that childcare is moving up the political agenda. We were glad to meet again with the First Minister but very little seemed to have been done since we met in January so we were a bit disappointed.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said that it would look at how it monitors the implementation of its policy across different local authorities.
He said: “The First Minister and the education secretary had a positive meeting with Fair Funding For Our Kids’ representatives earlier this week and welcome their input on this important issue.
“Local authorities are now required to consult with groups of parents at least once every two years on patterns of childcare provision that would best meet their needs, which will introduce a greater level of flexibility and choice to the system as we work with local government to further develop and expand provision.
“However, local authorities must continue to fulfil their statutory obligations to secure adequate high-quality childcare provision in their areas.”