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Friday, 16 September 2016

Flexible childcare should be legal requirement of Scots councils, says Labour

Written by The Press Association

Councils should be legally compelled to provide flexible childcare, according to Scottish Labour.

The Scottish Government provides 600 hours of free childcare but councils are under no statutory duty to meet parent demand, Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said.

She will outline proposals for a legal guarantee of flexible childcare for working parents, similar to provisions in England and Wales, on Friday.

Access to flexible childcare was a key recommendation from Naomi Eisenstadt, the Scottish Government's anti-poverty adviser.

Under the Childcare Act 2006 all local authorities in England and Wales have a legal obligation to make sure there is sufficient childcare for working parents and those undertaking training.

Ms Dugdale said: "The Scottish Child Poverty Bill should have a statutory duty to provide affordable flexible, wrap-around childcare for Scottish families.

"The debate around affordable childcare needs to move away from simply the number of hours the Government are providing to parents actually being able to access those hours.

"There's no point having a childcare policy that fits on an election leaflet if it doesn't fit round the lives of working families.

"The SNP's own poverty adviser Naomi Eisenstadt made this a key recommendation in her report to the SNP Government. We are now looking to work with the SNP and other parties to make those recommendations a reality.

"This has the potential to be transformative for working families in Scotland, and grow our economy.

"The way we deliver it, though, is to stop cuts to councils who deliver childcare services. That is why Labour is making the case to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts to our public services."

Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance said: "Addressing poverty - in particular child poverty - is a priority. Our aim is to eradicate child poverty and that is why we are currently consulting on a Child Poverty Bill to put targets into statute and ensure our child poverty strategy tackles the deep-rooted causes.

"Across government, we are also taking action to tackle inequalities including providing free school meals for all children in P1-P3 and almost doubling the number of free hours of early learning and childcare from 600 to 1,140 hours.

"We are also reducing the attainment gap in schools and delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes, with 35,000 for social rent, over the next five years, and we will shortly publish our Fairer Scotland Action Plan."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2016, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Andrew Milligan / PA Wire.