Scottish election 2021: SNP pledges to increase wraparound childcare provision

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will deliver a “revolution” in childcare if returned to government, with an offer to expand wraparound services and extend early years education to all one and two-year-olds.

Campaigning in Glasgow, the First Minister said an SNP Government would extend childcare to before and after-school, all year-round, with those on the lowest incomes paying nothing.

She said her government had already expanded free childcare provision to 1,140 hours, which is set to be completed in August this year, but that it would extend it further to all one and two-year-olds, with children from low income households given access to the childcare first.

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Early years education would be part of a "revolution" in childcare, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

"The last year has been extraordinarily tough on families, and as we build a sustainable recovery from Covid-19, we need to do everything we can to support them,” Ms Sturgeon said.

"In government, the SNP has been investing massively in the next generation – from the Baby Box to the roll-out of free school meals or our flagship Scottish Child Payment – and in fact the biggest capital investment made in the last term was in our massive expansion of childcare provision.

"Despite the logistical challenges thrown up over the last year, I am pleased that we will complete the expansion of free, high-quality childcare to 1,140 hours by August of this year.

"But that is not the limit of our ambitions. We will build a year-round system of 'wraparound' childcare, which will provide care before and after school. We'll ensure that those on the lowest incomes pay nothing, with others making a fair and affordable contribution.

"For many, this will make the difference between not being able to afford to work because of high childcare costs and being able to work or work longer, raising family incomes as a result."

However Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said many parents who had supported the SNP at the last election were still waiting for the fulfilment of the childcare pledges made in 2016.

“The SNP have taken their eye off the ball as families who voted based on the SNP’s childcare pledges last time around may have seven year olds by now, and are still waiting.” she said.

“Scottish Labour supports a flexible, all-age, all-year, wrap-around affordable early years service centred on the needs of the child. We want to see a year-on-year expansion of the hours available, with the eventual ambition of offering 50 hours a week for every child.

“Any expansion of childcare provision needs a plan to expand and value the highly skilled sector workforce, the majority of whom are women.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart said: "The SNP delayed the roll-out of the existing plan. Their inflexible approach has made it difficult for many parents to take up the offer. The small number of two-year-olds taking up their places shows that the SNP does not meet the needs of children or parents.

"We will set out plans that will offer greater flexibility and expand provision to suit the needs of parents."

The Scottish Conservatives have pledged to offer access to wraparound childcare for children in primary one to primary three, up to 195 hours each year.

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