Edinburgh commuters could be forced out of jobs over end to funded nursery places

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Many families said they won't be able to continue in their jobs.

Parents who commute into Edinburgh could be forced out of jobs, over a lack of access to funded childcare places in the city's private and independent nurseries.

Local authority chiefs plan to "phase out" access to the city's independent nurseries, meaning those who travel to work from areas such as Fife, East Lothian, West Lothian and Midlothian will only be offered funded places in council-run nurseries.

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It has sparked a backlash with parents warning they are "under substantial stress" over the plans, which would see funding withdrawn for 1140 hours of private nursery care for 3 and 4-year-olds.

Campaigners have hit out over the proposal, warning it will have a "major impact" on parents.

Now a group of eight MSPs have written to the council leader demanding a rethink and branding it a 'backwards step' particularly for mums getting back into work

The council says the move would encourage parents to take up council nursery places instead, amid a significant funding shortfall.

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But many parents work standard office hours and need the private nursery provision to be able to make drop-off and pick-up times near their work.

Private nurseries can offer more flexibility as they are often more likely to be open for longer hours and outside of term time.

One mum who works in Edinburgh said "I would like to be able to use a council run nursery, but that only seems to be suitable for families where both parents don't work as they have more flexibility to pick up children earlier. The nursery hours in council places are just not adequate. We have two kids and need to be able to get them to nursery near our work. Our childcare bill even with the subsidy is big. If that's taken away I don't know what we will do. It's a total nightmare."

The letter from MSPs dated 7 March reads: "We are aware of a number of families adversely affected by this and are now under substantial stress due to the uncertainty this decision has brought. We understand you propose that families should be taking up places at council nurseries rather than continuing to fund private providers. This is not a tenable option for parents who work standard office hours and many of the families we have spoken to would be unable to continue their current employment if this was the option they had to take up."

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"There will also be a number of private nursery employees in Edinburgh who live outwith the city who are now unable to have funded places at the very nurseries where they work which is even more unjustifiable."

Council chiefs have blamed the decision on funding constraints but MSPs said they know of "no other council is imposing the policy on parents."

It comes after a report to the council's education committee meeting in January warned of a £6m funding shortfall that would require the authority to "reshape the model of delivery". Officials also claimed the "quality of provision" within some partner providers was "variable" and often below the national standard.

The report sparked fear among parents as a proposal for the council to take over all funded provision, including for Edinburgh residents - but the council has denied this.

SNP Group Leader Councillor Adam Nols-McVey accused the council of changing the policy on nursery provision without getting approval from Councillors.

The council has been contacted for comment.

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