Scots Tories bid to change ‘unfair’ nursery care
Conservatives will today bid to change legislation to end “discrimination” in the provision of free nursery care.
Tory Liz Smith said it was “unacceptable” that the amount of funded care that children receive can vary, depending on when their birthday is.
The Conservative MSP said under the current system youngsters born between September 1 and February 29 received “far less support” than children born at other times of the year.
She has now tabled a series of amendments to the Children and Young People Bill aimed at addressing this, with MSPs on Holyrood’s Education Committee due to debate these.
It comes in the wake of research from the think-tank Reform Scotland, which claimed the difference in provision amounted to up to 317 hours of free nursery care, worth more than £1,000.
At the moment children are entitled to government funded nursery care from the term after their third birthday.
The Tories said this means boys and girls born between March 1 and August 31 would receive two years of free nursery care before they start school.
But the party said those children born between September 1 and December 31 would get 18 months, while children with birthdays in either January or February would receive just 15 months of free nursery care.
In a report last year Reform Scotland branded the existing system as ‘’grossly unfair’’.
The Tories believe it would be fairer for free nursery provision to start at a fixed point in the year for all children.
Ms Smith, the Conservative spokeswoman for young people, said: “The fact that there is discrimination within nursery provision as a result of the date of a child’s birthday is completely unacceptable.
“Under the SNP, children who are born between the 1st of September and 29th February receive far less support than children born in other months of the year.
“The difference can vary by up to 317 hours or by more than £1,000 within the cost of partnership nursery provision.
“That cannot be allowed to continue which is why I have tabled several amendments within the Children and Young People’s Bill to remove this anomaly.
“I believe Labour and the Liberals are keen to support these amendments so I hope the SNP will now see sense and agree to change what is currently a highly discriminatory policy which causes many children to lose out and many parents to face a financial penalty just because of when their child was born.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Children and Young People Bill is a first step towards transforming childcare, which will save families up to £700 per year per child.
“Our ultimate ambition as set out in Scotland’s Future is for all children to get access to high quality childcare and that is what we will deliver for all pre-school children with the full powers of an independent Scotland.
“The system where a child starts nursery at the beginning of the first term following their third birthday makes the best use of the entitlement and takes proper account of the child’s age and educational needs with parents of younger children able to keep them in nursery and defer starting school if they feel it is best.”