OPFS’ response to Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement on the extension of free childcare
One Parent Families Scotland warmly welcomes the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to extend free childcare so that all 3 & 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds will receive 30 hours of free childcare. We are particularly pleased that this is not only revenue investment, but “major capital investment” in Scotland’s childcare infrastructure.
Early implementation of extended childcare will begin to have an immediate impact on child poverty in the short term and in the long term by breaking down the financial barriers to moving into paid employment, especially for single parents. We hope this will be the beginning of a strategic approach to extend affordable childcare, including out of school care, for all children up to the age of 15 years. Parents, whether single or couples, tell us they want to see the provision of childcare in Scotland transformed so that it becomes part of our infrastructure, and is free or affordable, high quality and accessible to all.
Scotland’s model can be about more than affordable childcare. Early years and education can make an ambitious contribution to “society-building” – a belief that flexible childcare can not only transform child development but also vastly improve the prospects for women and those in poverty and build a more inclusive labour force. Flexible Childcare should be a formidable social lever – decreasing poverty, increasing mobility for mothers and supporting women in particular to achieve their potential.
Childcare doesn’t exist in a cultural vacuum. Affordable childcare is just one trademark of a society that puts children first, supports parents who choose to work less to be with their children and is generous with parental and sick leave. A childcare system takes patience to build, even with a multi-million pound investment, and working parents helping with the bills. Creating places also has to be balanced with quality and staff paid at a “Living Wage.” In a country where most families are trapped by an inflexible market-based childcare model that charges high fees, parents are desperate for a fairer system.