Scotland's first minister announces funded childcare expansion
Tuesday, September 5, 2023
Scotland is to pilot funded early years education for children from the age of nine months, following in the footsteps of England.
In his programme for Government speech at the start of the new parliamentary year at Holyrood this afternoon (5 September), Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf outlined new measures to improve the country’s childcare.
The measures include piloting care for children from the age of nine months through to the end of primary school and ‘accelerating’ the expansion of funded childcare for two-year-olds.
Yousaf said there would be a phased extension for two-year-olds, with the most-needy benefiting first. He also promised to give parents greater flexibility over childcare.
The SNP leader committed to improving childminder recruitment and increasing pay for early years staff to a minimum of £12 per hour from April.
In a move designed to tackle poverty, Yousaf also announced plans to raise the Scottish Child Payment, providing more than £1,000 a year to over 300,000 children, and remove the income thresholds for the Best Start food programme by February, under which parents receive financial support to pay for milk and healthy food;.
Speaking ahead of his statement, the first minister said, ‘Helping families deal with cost of living pressures is one of my key priorities, and providing further funding to expand childcare provision will help deliver that.
‘Scotland already has the most generous and high-quality early learning and childcare offer in the UK and the measures I am setting out today will help make it even fairer and more affordable for those who need it most.
‘Supporting families is not only fundamentally the right thing to do, it is critical to our mission – affordable and accessible childcare supports employment and the economy, and secure and sustainable employment helps lift families out of poverty.’
'The Scottish Government will need to significantly boost childcare funding to enable providers to pay their staff £12 per hour'.
The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said that any extension to funded childcare needs to be deliverable by PVI settings.
Chief executive Purnima Tanuku explained, ‘Early learning and childcare providers consistently report that the biggest barrier to improving pay is the low funding rates they receive and currently only three councils are on target to increase their hourly funding rates in line with spiralling costs. The Scottish Government will need to significantly boost childcare funding to enable providers to pay their staff £12 per hour from April.
‘In order to accelerate the two-year-old offer and implement the early adopter scheme, providers will need urgent support with their serious workforce and funding issues. Nurseries are really struggling to recruit and retain staff – they are either leaving for the public sector or taking up jobs in other sectors such as retail and hospitality.’