Midlothian childcare figures row

Michelle Ballantyne MSP 23 May 2017. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Michelle Ballantyne MSP 23 May 2017. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Government has been criticised after it emerged that only six nurseries in Midlothian are currently offering 1140 hours of nursery care.

The SNP Government has committed to giving all children 1140 hours of free childcare from August 2020. However, a recent Freedom of Information request from the Scottish Conservatives has highlighted that only 27 per cent of public nurseries are currently meeting the target and that due to staffing issues there are concerns that might not be met.

South Scotland List MSP Michelle Ballantyne (Con) has expressed her concerns with the statistics. She said: “With less than 18 months to go, it’s concerning that barely a quarter of public nurseries in Midlothian are providing the full 1140 hours of childcare.

“Due to the changes in staff qualification there are a lot of worries over staff recruitment and access to capital funding for private nurseries.

“We are hearing more and more examples of businesses either pulling out of impossible partnerships, or closing down all together.

“The SNP launched this policy to huge fanfare. They must get it right or parents will be bitterly disappointed.”

Responding, Children’s Minister Maree Todd (SNP)said: “This is misleading in a number of ways. Our target is to nearly double childcare to 1140 hours from August 2020, not now. The current entitlement is 600 hours and no provider has a legal obligation to offer 1140 hours.

“Councils are expanding the offer between now and August 2020, allowing councils and providers to test the practicalities and gather feedback from parents.

“Our policy agreed with local government is that the expansion is ‘provider neutral’, meaning local authorities should use all kinds of ELC provision to increase flexibility and choice for parents.”