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Government unveils plan to meet 2020 childcare promise

This news post is about 7 years old

The Scottish Government has revealed its 31 point plan to ensure it can fulfill its promise to provide 1140 hours of free early years childcare by 2020

Parents of three and four year olds could be given more control over how they access their free childcare hours under new plans unveiled by the Scottish Government.

Minister for childcare and early years, Mark McDonald, revealed a 31 point plan being followed by the government in order to fulfil its promise to provide 1140 hours of free early years childcare by 2020.

A major part of the plan will see the government look at a new funding model which will see the funding follow the child allowing parents more choice between using council funded nurseries, private nurseries and childcare providers.

A quality standard that all providers will be required to meet before they can access funding to deliver the free hours will be introduced creating a coherent and consistent national standard.

Currently all three and four-year-olds, as well as vulnerable two-year-olds, are entitled to 600 hours of free care, however children’s charities and parents have criticised the government for not being able to access their entitled care due to a number of red tape difficulties in the current system.

McDonald said the plan would remove barriers to private and third sector providers delivering funded ELC in order to give parents more choice.

He told MSPs: “I want to make clear that local authorities will continue to play a vital role in delivering ELC and building capacity for the expansion to 1140 hours – they will be the main guarantor of quality and enabler of flexibility and choice.

“But the service model we will develop is fundamentally ‘provider neutral’ - prioritising the settings that are best placed to deliver quality outcomes for children, and supporting our ambition to close the attainment gap, regardless of which sector they are provided by.

“This model will ensure that funding follows the child. It will be underpinned by a rigorous approach to ensure the quality of learning and care, so we will also establish a new national standard for funded provider status. Sustainability and fairness will also feature in the new model to help drive quality.”

Maggie Simpson, chief executive of the Scottish Childminding Association, welcomed the acknowledgement childminders have a key role in the future delivery of funded entitlement.

However, she added much more needs to be done.

“Up until now childminders have played a relatively limited role in providing funded entitlement despite being keen to be active partners,” she said.

“Of the 5,954 professional childminding services in Scotland only 118 are delivering funded ELC which is completely unacceptable.”

Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland said her organisation has strongly supported the development of a simpler and more transparent way public and private money pays for childcare.

She added: “For that reason we were encouraged to hear today that ‘funding will follow the child’ – but will look for evidence to see that this principle is being borne out in the experiences of children, families, and providers.”