National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) survey of 73 nurseries in Scotland reveals that 97 per cent have not adopted the voluntary Scottish Living Wage of £8.75 an hour, which was introduced by the Living Wage Foundation campaign group and is backed by the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government is developing a new national standard for funded provider status, which nurseries will have to sign up to, when the expansion of childcare Once the national standard is published, paying staff the Scottish Living Wage will be a condition for nurseries delivering the 30 hours (1,140 hours a year) for three- and four-year-olds as a partner provider.
Just 54 per cent of those surveyed by the NDNA have aspirations to adopt the Scottish Living Wage in the future, but they said it was dependent on whether the Government substantially increased funding.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted to all Scottish councils by the NDNA reveals that the average funding childcare providers receive to deliver two-year-old places in Scotland is £4.95 and £3.84 for three to five-year-olds.
Out of the 32 local authorities in Scotland, 24 replied to NDNA’s FOI request for funding rates.
The lowest rates were £4 for two-year-olds in the Scottish Borders and £3.25 for three and four-year-olds in Inverclyde.
One nursery told NDNA, ‘We would need to increase fees to achieve this (paying the Scottish Living Wage). If the funding rate is increased this should go some way to helping as well as the abolishment in business rates.’
Another said, ‘Until the Scottish Government really put their hands in their pocket and pay exactly what they should this won't happen. We haven't had any increase in the last eight years.’
Other nurseries feared the increase in wages could be much more damaging, with one owner saying that without an increase in funding they will have to close.
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA Scotland, said, ‘Both the results of our Scottish Living Wage survey and the FOI demonstrate how crucial it is that the Scottish Government ensures that local authorities offer a funding rate which is sustainable. It must realistically encompass the cost of delivering good quality early learning and childcare.
‘The present rates, as seen in the FOI results, are woefully inadequate to be able to pay the rising cost of the workforce.
‘Until this situation is resolved and sufficient investment put into funded childcare, staff will be poorly paid and continue to leave for better prospects in the public sector.
‘We are calling for a level playing field for all providers in order to deliver the Scottish Government’s ambitious promise of 1,140 funded hours per year for all three and four-year-olds.’
A Scottish Government spokesperson said, 'A high quality workforce is the single most important driver of the quality of a child’s early learning and childcare experience – and the promotion of fair work practices, including fair pay, is key to supporting that.
'That is why, as part of our commitment to fully fund our ambitious expansion of the early learning and childcare entitlement to 1,140 hours by 2020, we will provide additional revenue for local authorities to set sustainable rates for private and third sector providers to enable them to pay the Living Wage.'
The Scottish childcare minister Marree Todd will be speaking with nursery owners and managers at NDNA’s member event in Edinburgh today (Tuesday 20 March).