Childcare provision ‘unsuitable’ in most areas of Scotland

Some parents encountered a lack of flexibility, with some local authorities only offering half-day places at council nurseries. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Some parents encountered a lack of flexibility, with some local authorities only offering half-day places at council nurseries. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Childcare provision in most parts of Scotland remains unsuitable for working parents, according to a campaign group.

A survey of local authorities by the Fair Funding for our Kids group has indicated some parents are still struggling to access their full free childcare entitlement.

The Scottish Government increased the entitlement to free childcare for three to five-year-olds from 475 to 600 free hours per year in 2014.

But some parents encountered a lack of flexibility, with some local authorities only offering half-day places at council nurseries. While some families could place their children in private nurseries for the full day, councils were not always prepared to fund these places, even where the nurseries were in partnership with the local authorities.

The campaign group found in 2015-16 almost three-quarters of all free childcare places for three to five-year-olds in Scotland were offered in council-run nurseries.

Nine out of ten of these council places were for half-days only while 65 per cent of all nursery places in Scotland were half-days only.

The group also said councils in Scotland are underfunding places in private nurseries, with 25 of 32 local authorities offering an hourly rate below the national average cost of a nursery place.

The findings represent only a slight improvement on the same survey undertaken by the group in 2014-15. It previously estimated as many as one in five children misses out on their legal entitlement.

A campaign spokeswoman said: “Despite announcements by the Scottish Government highlighting progress, our own investigations have found there has been very little progress made in ensuring that Scottish parents can access their entitlement.”

Scottish Labour education spokesman Daniel Johnson said: “The SNP government need to spend less time patting themselves on the back and more time listening to parents.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Local authorities are now required to consult with groups of parents on childcare provision that would best meet their needs.”