Welcome to the Public Works blog.

Public Works is UNISON Scotland's campaign for jobs, services, fair taxation and the Living Wage. This blog will provide news and analysis on the delivery of public services in Scotland. We welcome comments and if you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk. For other information on what's happening in UNISON Scotland please visit our website.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Childcare Costs Higher Than Mortgages


Lots to read on supporting Scotland’s children this week: A new reporting highlighting the costs of childcare and then two reports focusing on education early years and inequality from The Scotland Institute and the Jimmy Reid Foundation.

For many childcare charges mean that in the short term there is very little financial advantage to working. Twenty-five hours in a nursery now costs on average £102.04 a week in Scotland and an after school club £49.54. For an increasing number of families childcare costs now outstrip their mortgage payments. The high cost of childcare is therefore acting against both UK and Scottish government programmes to tackle poverty and inequality and support mothers into work.

We agree with the institute when it states that local authorities should become the providers of childcare. What this cannot become though is just starting formal school earlier. Early year’s education is very different from formal schooling and must remain so. We need to develop the best early years provision suited to the needs of our children not force them into a school system that doesn’t meet their needs just because buildings have space. Local authorities will be the most cost effective method of provision. They already employ the best qualified and most experienced childcare workers and are therefore best placed to expand their workforce while maintaining a high standard. We need to introduce a requirement that, at a minimum, local authorities are responsible for identifying the demand for childcare in their authorities as soon as possible. It will be very difficult to improve and expand childcare without out knowing what demand is for the service. This duty exists already the case in the rest of the UK.

The new Common Weal education report rightly highlights the transformation that has taken place in Finland where they top the international rankings regularly for excellence and equity. The Finnish system doesn’t start formal learning until 7, before that children learn through play. Excellent parental leave also gives babies much more time with their parents before entering into childcare.

A publicly funded and delivered early years service via by local authorities offers the best way forward. Transforming childcare will cost money, we can’t pretend otherwise but it will both generate more tax by directly creating jobs and by supporting women to return to work after maternity leave. There will be a short term return on that investment. We will also make savings if we invest in getting it right in the first place rather than the high costs we currently pay to overcome the effects of poverty and inequality. These reports show why we need to get on with investing in childcare and the benefits we will gain from that investment.

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