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Scottish councils accused of putting political ideology ahead of children's needs

Article By: Richard Howard, News Editor

Most of Scotland’s councils do not allow parents adequate access to government-funded childcare, according to the independent, non-party think tank Reform Scotland.

Naming Glasgow Council as one of the poorest performing authorities on this issue, the think tank criticises councillors for failing to adhere to the Scottish Government’s policy of offering 600 hours of nursery provision to three- and four-year-olds.

Campaigners at Fair Funding for Kids comment, “For many children and working parents in Glasgow and beyond, the system is not delivering a model of childcare that matches the needs of the modern working family, with the result that many children are missing out on their early years entitlement.

“Right now, thousands of families across Scotland are unable to access their legal entitlement to free childcare because most council nurseries do not offer suitable hours for working parents.

“For these working parents, private partnership nurseries can provide the solution. However, not all eligible children are able to access their entitlement in partnership nurseries because local authorities are limiting the number of funded places available.”

According to Reform Scotland, these places are being limited because councils like Glasgow, East Lothian and East Dunbartonshire are under a false impression that parents are choosing private sector providers.

Research director, Alison Payne, says: “This is not about the private sector versus the public sector, but acknowledging that most council nurseries do not provide the full-time care that working parents need, and therefore, for all children to be guaranteed to receive government-funded nursery provision, the money must follow the child.”

As a solution, the think tank calls for parents to have their own ‘virtual voucher’ that will guarantee access to their portion of the government funding.

Ms Payne continues, "We have a simple suggestion – if an independent nursery meets the Education Scotland and Care Inspectorate standards, parents should by right be able to take their full government-funded entitlement there as a ‘virtual voucher’.

“This is not radical and already happens in some areas in Scotland. However, Reform Scotland believes that this should extend to all working families.

"We accept and commend the work many politicians are doing to try to help parents remain in, or get back into, work. However, this means that policies with regard to nursery provision need to reflect this goal, and that requires enabling parents to take up their child’s nursery entitlement at an establishment which fits in with their working pattern.”


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