Monday, 23 April 2012

Free Childcare in Scotland - where is it?

I just did some research, as a friend was moaning about the lack of free nursery place in her particular area of Scotland, and it turns out funding for childcare via tax benefits is reserved to the UK Government. A report by an NGO, called 'The Scottish Child Care Lottery', states that 118,000 children in Scotland will loose out on childcare thanks to UK Government actions in the recent budget through the reduction in tax credits and some 80,000 children will drop into their absolute poverty category.

Provision of childcare comes under 'welfare' a reserved issue rather than 'education' over which Holyrood has control. Given the further reduction in tax credit capping of 80% for childcare to 70% in the child care element and other alterations to the UK system by the Tory Libdems, those at the bottom end will loose some £534 from their income over the next year which of course hits those at the lower end of the income scale the most.

The SNP aspiration is free pre-school for all children in Scotland, but they recognise the social and financial impact that increased reduction in UK tax credits and their own block grant is having in real terms. The standard SNP response is Scotland needs control of its own taxation and welfare budget to achieve its aims.

Currently each council is funded by the Scottish Government to provide 475 hours of free care for each child per year (which is just under ten hours a week and is a slight improvement on the 7.5 hours per week of the previous Lab/lib coalition) with a incoming bill to push that up to 600 hours. The Councils decide how their funding is used and which families directly benefit from truly 'free places'. For working parents, the real need is nine hours per day of nursery / childcare for four to five days a week - some 2,000 hours of free nursery funding a year, such is the gulf between the real need and the ability of current UK Tax and Welfare funding policies to deliver.

For details of the recent Holyrood debate on this isue go to:

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