Save the Children have collated the views of parents into a great report on childcare in Scotland. There is a remarkable consensus amongst parents about what the problems are and what they need. The high cost of childcare causes real problems for families across Scotland.
Parents in work either struggle to make ends meet because of the cost of childcare or use a complex mix of support from friends and family and childcare to keep costs down. Others give up work or don’t take up opportunities to work because the cost of care makes it unworkable. Even finding out what’s available for what age group is complex and time consuming. There is a catch 22 where you can’t confirm childcare arrangements until you know when you will be working or studying nor can you confirm when you could work or study until you have childcare sorted.
What we need is to look at the system as a whole. There is still a split between childcare and early years education with one paid for directly by parents and the other via taxation. Childminders and private nurseries while regulated by local authorities are not under their control. There is no strategic planning about how many are needed in each area, in fact no one knows:
• the level of demand/need for childcare in Scotland.
• how many more parents would be working if childcare was available/affordable
• how many hours of childcare parents want/need to balance the needs of their child and the need to earn money
• what mix parents would really like between childminder/nursery provision and providing that care themselves.
UNISON is a long-term supporter of publically delivered service free at the point of use. Delivering childcare in the sameway as post five-education will make the system, simpler, cheaper for families and of a higher and more consistent standard. As an IPPR report shows that the provision of childcare free at the point of use pays for itself in increased tax income from extra hours worked by women entering the workforce. The extra hours promised in the Children’s Bill are welcome but the whole system needs to change if we are to really move forward. The findings of this report suggest that parents would welcome this change.