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New partnership to create childcare revolution in Scotland

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Children's organisation say Scotland can create the best childcare policies in the world.

Some of the biggest businesses in the country are to be encouraged to develop employment practices that help parents look after their children in a bid to improve childcare in Scotland.

An alliance between Children in Scotland, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) and the Scottish Government this week vowed to reform childcare in Scotland.

Both employees and employers need flexibility to identify what practically works for them - Ross Martin

The group said that improving childcare for families in Scotland was not just about providing more free childcare hours, but reforming attitudes towards parents in business.

The first move of the alliance was to create a commission for childcare reform, which will spend the next 12 months investigating ways to improve childcare in Scotland.

The commission will work with employers, families, communities and childcare providers before creating recommendations in 2015.

Research from the Childcare Trust shows that 27% of an average family’s income in Scotland is spent on childcare while 50% of families rely on grandparents for help.

The same research shows that 79% of councils say they do not have sufficient childcare facilities or places.

The alliance has said it intends to start engaging with civil society and business to reform the way provision of childcare for parents and children is delivered.

Key to this will be a focus on flexibility, cost and standard of provision.

Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland said the political debate around childcare has too narrowly focused on improving the number of hours of provision which, while welcome, has not been sufficient.

“We know that current provision is inflexible, unaffordable and inaccessible for thousands of families across the country affecting both child development, family prosperity and the economic output of the country as a whole,” she said.

“It is welcome that the issue has come to the forefront of political debate, but most of the discussion has centred around plans to extend subsidised childcare. It needs to go deeper than this.

“So we will be providing a platform for civic society and the business community to talk to each other about policies, practices and funding models that are sustainable and effective.

“Crucially, this is about driving forward real and meaningful change.”

Ross Martin, chief executive of SCDI, said the alliance presented an opportunity to make Scotland’s approach to childcare world leading.

He added: “We understand that both employees and employers need flexibility to identify what practically works for them.

“We welcome any discussion which gives employers a seat at the table and works to address the missing workforce while being mindful of the environment and context within which employers of all sizes work.”

Children in Scotland facts
In Scotland, where childcare is a devolved issue, three and four-year-olds are entitled to 12.5 hours a week of free childcare, increasing to 15 hours this August and extended to some two-year-olds.
State-funded childcare is between 10 and 15 hours a week in the rest of the UK
Working parents on low incomes can receive up to 70% of their childcare charges up to a maximum of £175 per week for one child and £300 per week for two or more children through tax credits
27% of family income is spent on childcare in Scotland compared to 5% in Sweden