Liberal Beatrice Wishart and Minister Maree Todd. Illustration of families above by Jane Heaney
By Democrat reporter
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has today revealed that the Scottish Government has refused to reimburse the parents who have been penalised for exercising their right to defer their child starting primary school.
Following the campaign run by ‘Give them Time’ and pressure at the Scottish Parliament, the Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd made a commitment “to introduce legislation to entitle all children whose school start is deferred to access funded early learning and childcare in their deferred year”. However, the necessary changes have yet to be made.
In November it was revealed that 139 applications were rejected, forcing parents to self-fund an additional year of childcare because they decided deferral was best for their child.
Ms Wishart called for the Minister to refund these childcare costs, in light of the Scottish Government’s commitment. However, in correspondence the Ms Todd stated that reimbursing parents who have been forced to pay in the meantime is “not something we intend to take forward” which means that “some children who defer their school start will not qualify for statutory funded ELC in the interim”.
Beatrice Wishart said: “The Scottish Government told campaigners and Parliament last year that they accept the principle of funding deferred entry, but it’s refusing to stump up for those facing costs now. Parents are paying the price.
“This would be a relatively minor financial commitment for the government to make, but it could be all the difference to individual families. Given ministers have accepted the injustice, their refusal to cover the costs while they get the binding legislation together is disappointing.
“This is a slap in face for the parents who are struggling with the mounting costs of childcare. Not only do families need and deserve this support, but there is no credible route to a strong economic recovery from this crisis that does not include strong childcare services. This can’t afford to wait.”
A spokesperson for the Give them Time campaign commented: “We are disappointed that the government has not agreed to backdate such payments to parents who have taken up their legal right to defer their child’s p1 start and had to pay the price for doing what they believed was best for them.
“However, we are pleased that the Minister has restated her commitment to introducing legislation before May 2021 to automatically fund these nursery places for deferred children in future”.
- The Ferret’s report showing at least 139 rejected applications can be found here.