Scottish report calls for ‘real vision’ on childcare

Too many parents in Scotland cannot access or afford childcare than meets their needs so a radical new approach is needed, according to a report published today.

The Commission for Childcare Reform report welcomed government initiatives on childcare funding, but said there was a need for real vision and for government to “stop dealing with individual issues in isolation”.

It says funding of childcare is “complex, confusing, unfair and lacks transparency”, for both families and childcare providers and that there is no overall vision or strategy for childcare.

It wants to see an entitlement for parents to access 50 hours per week of affordable, flexible childcare and/or free education, with families contributing no more than 10% of household income to childcare costs and poorer families contributing less.

It also wants to see a simplified funding system so parents are better able to understand and access their entitlement and for local arrangements to ensure that entitlement is delivered.

Colin MacLean, chair of the Commission, said local authorities need to broaden their focus from ‘providing a fixed amount of free early learning to some children’ to ‘ensuring the availability of affordable all day childcare for all families, within which some children receive an agreed amount of free early learning’. He added that there was a eed to look at the issue of support for families with very young children “where the duration of statutory maternity leave compares reasonably well with other countries, but cash support from the state lags far behind many other European countries”.

He recognised the complexity involved in having two different governments – Westminster and the Scottish Parliament – being involved in childcare funding.

He said: “Funding flows from both Governments to support childcare in Scotland and one of the problems for families is that funding does not add up to a coherent package of support.”

Without full devolution of issues on tax and benefits to Scotland, he stated, the two governments will have to work together to create “a coherent approach to funding that is simple, fair and easy for families to understand and access”.

He urged the Scottish Parliament to initiate a review of funding for free early learning provision as the Westminister government is doing for England.

Meanwhile, a report from the Department for Education out today shows 99% of four-year-olds and 94% of three-year-olds in England are now accessing 15 hours of free early education a week. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, commented: “High-quality early education and care is known to have a significant positive impact on children’s long-term learning and development, and so it is very positive to see such a continued high take-up of free entitlement places.

“With the planned extension of the free entitlement scheme to 30 hours a week for eligible three- and four-year-olds set to begin in just over a year, it is now vital that government ensures that early years providers are adequately supported to deliver free entitlement places – something which can only be achieved through sufficient funding. As such, we look forward to working with government on the upcoming review into early years funding, and to supporting the development of a robust, sustainable childcare system that will ensure the delivery of high-quality, affordable and accessible care and learning in the long term.”

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