Year’s delay to increased hours for childcare is unacceptable
By Democrat reporter
Women at work face a perfect storm over childcare, according to Iain Gray, Labour’s spokesperson in the Scottish Parliament.
He told MSPs: “There was a pre-existing gender employment gap; women are more likely than men to be employed in jobs that are affected by the crisis and, statistically, they spend more time looking after children who have been forced to stay at home.
“If the Scottish Government does not urgently come up with a plan to deliver the required childcare alongside good-quality, secure jobs, women will be the worst affected when the furlough scheme ends.
“What the minister has outlined is not that plan and it does not remotely rise to meet the imperative of the jobs crisis that we face. We need something much more than a joint letter to the chancellor.
“A delay to the implementation of 1,140 hours of childcare for all young children might be understandable, but the minister has previously suggested a delay of a year, which is unacceptable.
“Will she therefore give us a timetable now and resource her own pledge to bring in the 1,140 hours for all as soon as possible and long before next August?”
However, Marie Todd, the Childcare Minister, told him: “I assure the member that we will bring in the 1,140 hours commitment for all as soon as we can. I hope that he understands that it is my wish to do that as much as it is the wish of everybody in the Parliament, but a number of challenges are involved in doing that.
“For the past four months, local authorities have rightly focused on responding to the emergency situation that we have found ourselves in. They have also had to put in place critical key worker childcare to ensure that front-line workers were able to respond to the emergency situation.
“A suite of interventions by our local authority partners has been required.
“In addition, the public health guidance and the operational guidance impact on capacity, so we might not be able to have quite so many children in each setting as we had originally planned.
“However, as I said, the guidance is expected to be updated at the end of the month, and I hope that that will relieve the capacity challenge.
“The next challenge is that very few local authorities have been able to progress with recruitment. There are also staff who are unable to attend their work at the moment because of shielding.
“Finally, we have the very obvious challenge that construction was halted because of the pandemic and has been able to restart only recently.
“Everybody agrees that pausing the expansion was unavoidable, but we are totally committed to resolving those challenges and to getting back on track with the 1,140 hours. Nobody is keener on that happening than I am, and I expect it to happen very soon.