Protect vulnerable families from local cuts, councils urged
Local authorities have been urged to protect children and families in their budgets.
Clare Simpson, Parenting across Scotland, told Holyrood that as Scotland’s councils face having to find “immense” savings, it is “quite frightening” to think what could happen to some of Scotland’s most vulnerable families.
“We are living in a climate of austerity and increasing inequality and I think some parents who have a much worse life start find it much harder to provide that nurturing environment for their children - through no fault of their own,” Simpson explained.
In this context, she said they are “really encouraged” to see how high childcare is now on the agenda, highlighting Scottish Labour’s recent pledge to give free childcare to mothers who want to return to college, and also the commitments set out in the Children and Young People Act that entitle three and four year old children to 600 hours of funded early learning and childcare.
However, she warned that many local authorities will struggle to implement the target and questioned whether the commitment, which also extends to looked after two years olds and those in kinship care, would have benefited from more parliamentary consideration.
“I think more thought needs to be given to it because actually how we provide childcare to those vulnerable twos should be entirely different to three year olds - partly because two year olds developmental needs are different, but also because if they are vulnerable some of that may be to do with being taken into care and being fostered and so on. So it is not really desirable that they are then taken away into childcare. They need maybe one-to-one settings. And, actually, with vulnerable twos, what you should be looking at is to try and strengthen that attachment bond between parent and child and to help with parenting, if that is necessary.
“So I think some more thought needs to be given to that because it is a fantastic opportunity to be able to give the support when it is needed.”
However, as demand increases, she pointed out that some services are already at a “critical point”.
"People talk about getting early intervention and getting support really early on to avert crisis. But I think services are finding that more and more they can only intervene at crisis because resources are so limited. That is already at critical point.
“I think that in next year’s budget councils have got such immense savings to make, it is really quite frightening to think about what could happen to some of Scotland’s most vulnerable families.”