By Bill Heaney
Alarming new figures reveal that more than 8,000 nursery and childminding staff have been absent due to mental health issues over the past five years.
Responses to freedom of information requests by the Scottish Conservatives show that absences caused by stress among early years and childcare staff has rocketed by 53% since 2018.
The true figure across Scotland is likely to be even higher, as three councils didn’t respond, while a further four didn’t produce figures for 2022/23.
These statistics come against the backdrop of a Scottish childcare crisis. More than nine in ten councils are unable to fully fund free childcare and 34% of childminders have quit since 2016, while the Scottish Childminding Association has warned that over two thirds will quit by 2026.
Scottish Conservative deputy leader and shadow minister for children and young people Meghan Gallacher has slammed the SNP’s “transparent and unacceptable neglect” of Scotland’s childcare sector and urged the government to give staff the support that they need.
Meghan Gallacher MSP, right, said: “These alarming figures point to a mental health crisis among early years and childcare staff under the SNP.
“The rapidly rising number of stress-related absences is very worrying but also grimly predictable given the SNP’s transparent and unacceptable neglect of Scotland’s childcare sector.
“The SNPs roll-out of 1,140 hours free childcare has pushed businesses to the brink of collapse and has resulted in a mass exodus of childminders.
“The invaluable work of early years staff and childcare providers is transformative in allowing new parents – like myself – to return to work, boosting our economy and benefiting young families.
“It’s a crying shame that our childcare providers are so underfunded and demoralised. It’s little wonder that we are seeing so many off sick due to stress in these circumstances.
“Humza Yousaf cannot continue to short-change Scotland’s childcare sector, especially when he wants to expand the provision offered to parents. The SNP must urgently up their game to ensure that early years and childcare staff are given the support that they need.”
- Over the past five years more than 8,000 Early Years and Childcare staff absent due to stress or poor mental health. Scottish Conservative freedom of information requests have revealed that between 2018-2019 and 2022-2023 8,076 staff were absent due to stress of poor mental health. (FOI Available upon request).
- Absences due to stress or mental health by early years and childcare staff has increased by 53% since 2018-2019. Scottish Conservative research has found that absences by early years and childcare staff due to stress or poor mental health has increased by 53% from 1,159 in 2018-19 to 1,779 in 2022-23. The total figure is likely higher as 3 councils did not respond and four did not respond for the year 2022-2023. (FOI Available upon request).
- More than nine in ten local authorities are unable to fully fund free childcare. More than nine in ten local authorities admitted that the proportion of funded childcare places in partner settings was higher than the share of the budget used to pay for them. The SNP are now at risk of running their flagship policy of 1140 hours of free childcare into the ground through their savage budget cuts with the overwhelmingly majority of councils unable to fully fund the policy. (NDNA, 18 July, 2022, link).
- Independent nurseries make up a third of childcare providers whilst getting just a fifth of funding. It has been revealed that independent nurseries make up a third of providers for 1140 hours free childcare despite only receiving a fifth of the funding. (The Times, 18 July, 2022, link).
- Private childcare providers are being ‘short changed’ says the National Day Nurseries Association chief. Purnima Tanuku said: “Providers are being short-changed and children are missing out where councils are dedicating a significantly lower proportion of their budget than the number of hours being delivered. The impact of this is that private and voluntary nurseries cannot compete with the salaries available to staff in council-run nurseries which is putting the sector under real pressure.” (The Times, 18 July, 2022, link).
- Over a third of childminders have quit since 2016. Research by the Scottish Childminding Association revealed that 34% of childminders have quit the profession since the expansion of funded early education childcare in 2016. (Scottish Childminding Association, 28 November 2022, link).
- The Scottish Childminding association has warned Two-thirds of childminders will quit by 2026. Research by the Scottish Childminding Association warns that 64% of childminders will quit by July 2026. (Scottish Childminding Association, 28 November 2022, link).
- The Scottish Conservatives will provide 30 hours of free childcare a week for children from 9 months old. The Scottish Conservatives support the expansion of childcare from 9months onwards as announced by the UK Government. The Scottish Government must expand childcare to support parents back into work and to give our children the best possible start in life.
- The Scottish Conservatives will ensure funding always follows the child. Parents should always have choice when it comes to childcare. Each child would be worth the same, creating a level playing field for each child in Scotland, with parents being able to access nursery provision cross-council border.
- The Scottish Conservatives will launch a campaign to encourage more people into a career in childcare. If the expansion of free childcare is to be successful, the current exodus for the childcare sector must be reversed. The Scottish Conservatives will launch a campaign to promote childcare as a profession that is not only competitive but a lifelong career choice.