Scotland’s first minister announces plan to boost childcare

Humza Yousaf announced a state-funded childcare pilot in six local authorities, and a boost in minimum pay for childcare workers to a £12 per hour from April.

Story Time at Nursery


Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf has announced new measures to improve childcare.

Yousaf today announced a pilot to provide more state-funded childcare from the age of nine months to the end of primary school, as well as plans to accelerate an expansion of care for two-year olds.

He also said that Scotland’s government would boost minimum pay for all frontline childcare workers to £12 per hour from April. This pay boost would also apply to frontline social care workers.

In the UK, childcare is a devolved issue and the four nations decide their policies separately. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s central government thus only controls childcare policy in England.

Sunak has pledged a major expansion in free childcare for working families in England, which is due to be introduced in stages from next spring. But local councils and childcare providers have raised concerns over this pledge, saying that the childcare sector is beset by a lack of adequate state funding and staff shortages.

Scotland’s childcare pilot will take place in six ‘early-adopter’ local authorities and will focus on “expanding access to funded childcare from nine months through to the end of primary school”, according to the government’s plans for the 2023-24 political year. Further details of the pilot are not yet available.

Today’s announcement also included a childcare pledge “to phase in a national expansion for families with two-year-olds from next year.”

Barriers to raising pay

The National Day Nursery Association, which represents over 20,000 nurseries across the UK, said that Yousaf’s government now had to provide the childcare sector with enough funding to carry out today’s announcement.

“While the First Minister’s childcare announcement today sounds like great news for young children and their families, and an improvement for those working in early years, it’s crucial that the private and voluntary nursery sector are able to deliver this,” Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA Scotland, said in a statement.

“Early-learning and childcare providers consistently report that the biggest barrier to improving pay is the low funding rates they receive [from the state], and currently only three councils are on target to increase their hourly funding rates in line with spiralling costs.”

Yousaf also committed to raising the Scottish Child Payment, one of a number of state benefits that Scotland offers to families to help with childcare and other costs. He said ministers would invest more than £400m in this scheme, adding that this would provide more than £1,000 a year to over 300,000 children.

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