Across the country, schemes aimed at helping with the cost of childcare are in place, with thousands of working mums and dads taking every bit of help they can get.
Nevertheless, nurseries in Scotland are warning that the flagship childcare policy introduced by Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP government ‘is about to implode’. Recently published documents reveal that the childcare scheme is not being sufficiently funded, which may end up causing countless private nurseries to close as a result.
Extra Childcare Hours
The Scottish First Minister has promised to increase the number of free childcare hours from 600 per year to 1,140 for three- and four-year-old children. Eligible two-year-olds will also benefit from extra childcare hours.
The First Minister promised to make this available by August 2020, meaning that parents would benefit from around 30 hours of free childcare each week.
Nonetheless, after a Freedom of Information request from the Scottish Conservative Party, the response revealed that there have been many complaints about the new policy. Nursery owners have protested about ‘an absence of engagement in the roll-out’ of the policy as well as a ‘lack of access to capital funding’.
There have been numerous complaints from opponents of the scheme who have accused the Scottish government of ‘driving nurseries to breaking point’.
The Accounts Commission has also raised a red flag regarding funding, with a shortfall of around £160 million. Moreover, the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has already warned that less than a third of private nurseries will be in a position to offer the extra free hours promised by the government.
One area manager from Kirktonholme Childcare raised concerns with childcare minister Maree Todd earlier this year, saying, “The partner providers are literally on their knees, and I believe this ambitious policy is about to implode.”
In June, an email to deputy first minister and education secretary John Swinney told of a meeting between officials from South Lanarkshire Council and private nurseries. It read, “If this plan goes ahead, there will be services that will definitely not survive 2018 never mind 2020.”
Another private nursery manager said that business was ‘in a precarious situation for the near future’.
There are warnings that the plan to introduce 1,140 free hours will quickly collapse unless the government steps in to resolve the current situation.
Alison Harris, the Scottish Conservatives children and young people spokesperson said, “This childcare expansion was launched to huge fanfare, but it is clearer by the day that the SNP has no ability to deliver it. The SNP cannot deliver this policy without childcare providers and they are telling us that they cannot survive on the current rates.”
She added, “The SNP is driving nurseries to breaking point due to low rates, lack of engagement and lack of access to capital funding. The SNP must sort out this mess urgently or childcare providers will be driven out of business and parents relying on this policy will be devastated.”