SNP pledges to expand free childcare to one-year-olds
The SNP has pledged to expand free early years education to all one and two-year-olds if it wins the next election.
Nicola Sturgeon has also said the party plans to create a “wraparound” system to ensure childcare is available both before and after school for those who need it.
The Scottish Government is set to complete the expansion of free childcare in August after it was delayed by a year due to COVID-19.
This ensures children aged three and four, and some two-year-olds, will be entitled to receive up to 1,140 hours per year from local authority nurseries or other funded providers.
However, the rollout has been subject to some criticism for not meeting the different needs of families who may not have traditional working patterns.
The SNP said the plan for a wraparound, year-round system would help more people return to work, with those on the lowest incomes paying nothing for the extra care.
And an expansion to younger children would be rolled out to benefit the poorest households first.
Announcing the policy in Glasgow today, Sturgeon will say: “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.
“That’s good for the family finances, but it is also good for the national finances as it will help boost the number of people in work contributing more to the economy.”
Scottish Labour accused the SNP of having "taken their eye off the ball" on childcare, saying previous pledges had not been fulfilled.
Deputy leader Jackie Baillie added: "Scottish Labour supports a flexible, all-age, all-year, wraparound 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."
The Scottish Conservatives have previously pledged to extend the number of free childcare hours by 195 each year to enable a wraparound service.
The party also said it would launch a new campaign to encourage more families with eligible two-year-olds to take up their place, as currently around half do not.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens said they would raise the school starting age to seven and establish a kindergarten programme encouraging creative play for younger children.
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