By Lucy Ashton
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Willie Rennie has today pressed the new First Minister to kickstart work on a new funding formula that will ensure that the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) early years sector is not left at a disadvantage.
During his campaign to become First Minister, Humza Yousaf committed to a major expansion of early years childcare, an issue long championed by Scottish Liberal Democrats. However he provided no detail about how this would be delivered and what steps would be taken to reform the present funding formula which favours council nurseries and has led to a mass exodus from PVI setting to those run by councils.
This presents an issue for parents because Care Inspectorate 2020 figures show 84% of private nurseries offer early morning service compared to 39% of council nurseries and 92% offer after school hours cover compared to 42% of local authority nurseries.
First Minister Humza Yousaf and LibDem spokesman Willie Rennie MSP.
Mr Rennie said: “Nurseries could easily prove the bane of the new First Minister’s existence. “At the moment, the current funding formula funnels experienced staff away from the private sector and into council nurseries by paying them more to do the same job. That’s a problem because we will need all childcare settings to flourish if parents are to get the flexibility and support they need. There is no point in promising parents a set number of hours if the provision is not there to deliver them.
“At the moment, staff are moving from non-council settings to council settings but the total amount of provision available isn’t increasing by as much as it was supposed to.
“Part of the point of expanding childcare is to give parents a choice about when to access the care they need. If there is only a single provider who is only open at certain times, then the flexibility that families need goes out the window.
“The Scottish Government need to increase the rates that are paid to private and third sector childcare providers to match those in council settings. I fear that waiting months to find out what the First Minister thinks a fair funding formula looks like will be too late for many small nurseries. The First Minister must get to work on this immediately.”
Top of page picture Princess Anne on a visit to Drumfork Nursery in Helensburgh.