Flagship Scots childcare policy to return next year
The proposals will see the current entitlement of 600 hours of free childcare doubled to 1140 hours, the equivalent of the primary school week.
Children's minister Maree Todd today said that the change would be "transformational" with ministers having previously indicated it would allow a generation of women to return to the workplace.
The expansion of funded childcare had been originally earmarked for August this year, but was paused in April to allow councils to focus on tackling Coronavirus.
Children’s Minister Maree Todd said: “The pandemic has had an obvious impact on construction and recruitment plans across the country, however local authorities have worked exceptionally hard and continued to make good progress in very challenging circumstances, and the majority of children receiving funded ELC (early learning and childcare) are already receiving 1,140 hours.
“We were always clear that the suspension of the statutory duty on local authorities to provide 1,140 hours was a pause, not a stop.
"We will continue to work with partners over the coming months to deliver this transformational policy that will benefit families across the country.”
The flagship plans had been facing problems when it was shelved in April. Thousands of staff had yet to be recruited and hundreds of infrastructure projects not yet completed, a report by the public spending watchdog found earlier this year.
Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Beatrice Wishart said parents must have "choice and flexibility" in how they take up their childcare entitlement.
"It still isn't clear that will be available next August," she added.
"It must not be a take it or leave it offer to families."
COSLA’s Children and Young People’s spokesman Stephen McCabe said the pandemic has resulted in "massive challenges" in recruiting staff and ensuring the infrastracture is ready to deliver 1140 hours.
“Local government remains committed to increasing the number of funded early learning and childcare hours, recognising the transformational effect for Scotland’s families, ensuring that children have access to the highest quality learning and care, and providing significant savings to parents and carers," he said.