Comment: It makes it impossible to go out to work

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The lack of affordable childcare is one of the biggest challenges facing thousands of families in Edinburgh today.

The cost to those who have to pay for their children to be looked after while they go out to work is truly eye-watering. Just 25 hours of childcare a week adds up to nearly £22,000 per child by the time they start school.

What is even more staggering is how much more it costs in Edinburgh than in other parts of the UK – £5500 extra on average for every child.

Quite simply, for many people that makes it impossible to go out to work.

Not only is that bad for the parents involved – who are often desperate to work – but it is bad for the city’s economy. Many women in particular will build up valuable skills over years in employment, only to find they cannot use them after they have children, because they cannot afford to work.

For some it means being trapped on benefits, rather than going out and earning for themselves as they would rather do. That is bad, too, for the public purse.

One of the reasons that costs have grown so high in Edinburgh is rocketing demand, fuelled in part by the growing numbers of parents commuting into the city. It is easy to understand why people who live outside the Capital but work here want, or need, childcare near their workplace. Shift patterns can make it impossible to leave work early enough to collect a child from a nursery half-an-hour away.

It makes it harder to tackle the problem when the cost of sorting it all lands on the shoulder of one local authority. Many of those looking for childcare in Edinburgh are paying council tax to other local authorities.

The Scottish Government has acted in the past to recognise the special role which Edinburgh plays as the Capital. Extra funding is channelled to the city to help cover additional costs such as that of policing major events.

The Edinburgh economy is vital to the rest of Scotland, too. It draws in investment and creates jobs that benefit people from far across the rest of the country.

The time may have come for the Scottish Government to provide further support to help those families on the lowest incomes in the Capital and ensure they are not priced out of the job market.