Flagship plans to deliver a system of effective universal childcare in Scotland are well behind the staffing and infrastructure needed for its planned implementation in just ten months, it has emerged.
From August 2020 all three and four-year-olds across Scotland, and around one-quarter of two-year-olds, will benefit from the move to 1,140 hours of free state childcare.
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But fewer than half of the 8,458 additional staff required to move from the current 600 hours have so far been recruited, a new report today finds. Ministers insists that they are ahead of forecast on staffing levels at this stage of the plan and much of the infrastructure will be delivered in the final ten months.
Although the 4,069 in place so far is ahead of the interim predictions for August, the latest progress report admits there are problems.
"Recruitment of some types of roles especially managerial positions remains challenging," it stated.
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The progress report, carried out in August this year, also finds that just 214 of the 900 refurbishments, extension of new build projects have been completed to provide the extra capacity required for the change.
Construction has yet to begin on almost two-thirds, 566, of the infrastructure projects required which are described as being "in development." Construction is underway on a further 120.
But a Scottish Government spokesman insisted today's report sets out the position a full year before the expanded entitlement to early learning and childcare goes live.
He said: "In terms of staffing, as at August 2019 the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) additional staff in place was 5.7% above what it was forecast to be at this stage, with an increase of 87% from April to August this year.
"On infrastructure, the total number of projects completed is at 24% and the report notes much of the capital programme is forecast to happen over the next ten months."
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Children’s Minister Maree Todd celebrated the positive impact expansion is already having during a visit to Sauchie Nursery in Alloa where they met new recruits to the sector and children receiving 1,140 hours of childcare.
Ms Sturgeon said: “With less than one year to go many local authorities are making good progress with more than a third of eligible children now accessing expanded childcare and nearly half of additional staff needed in post. That’s major progress but we know the next ten months will see a big effort from everyone to make sure we deliver on time in August. We are confident but we do not underestimate the hard work ahead.”