Childcare campaign angry with minister after meeting
‘No answers’ on SNP flagship childcare policy leaves campaigners ‘frustrated and angry’
A campaign for more flexible free childcare has attacked Education Secretary Angela Constance for failing to provide any details on the SNP’s childcare expansion policy.
Fair Funding for our Kids, which says the current system of free nursery places excludes many children, said they were left “frustrated and angry” after a meeting on Tuesday with Constance and Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell.
The meeting had been requested after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged to double the childcare provision to 30 hours a week for all 3 and 4-year olds and vulnerable 2-year olds by 2020. The campaign says the current entitlement is not being met, with one in five kids missing out
“How will the First Minister deliver this new, bigger promise if she cannot even give children what they are entitled to now?" said spokeswoman Jenny Gorevan.
The campaign say Constance failed to answer key questions on the cost or timetable of the promise, including staffing arrangements and how councils will manage on shrinking budgets. It is understood some councils may be concerned about the proposals.
"The most basic sum tells you the 2020 promise needs a minimum of 650 new nurseries and 3,250 new nursery staff from nowhere within 4 years. And that is before you factor in variations in demand, staff retirement, geographical spread, parents wanting to pay for 2-year olds not eligible for a free place and so on. The real numbers are likely to be much, much higher."
"The plan to deliver infrastructure expansion on this scale by 2020 needs to be well in hand by now but the Cabinet Secretary doesn't have even ballpark figures on the most basic facts," said Gorevan.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said parents could be reassured preparations for the expanded sceme were “well underway” and will cost £800m.
“The figures estimated by Fair Funding for our Kids assume nothing will change between now and 2020 to deliver this increase in funded hours and fail to take account of Scotland’s 5,500 childminders. They also assume that doubling the hours of free childcare available will mean that we will need to double the number of childcare places,” she said.
Local Government is already being engaged in planning for infrastructure expansion, she added.
“The Minister for Children and Young People, as lead Minister, has also announced the establishment of a new Strategic Forum to help develop our plans for expansion to ensure we have a high quality, flexible system of early learning and childcare that is affordable and accessible for all.”
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