Scottish families face childcare challenge

Published on Friday, 28 March 2014 12:17
Written by Daniel Mason

Families in Scotland are being put under pressure because of patchy provision of childcare and above inflation prices rises, a report published today has warned.

The Family and Childcare Trust said many parents were struggling to find childcare and then faced bills similar or more than taking a second mortgage to pay for it.

In its third annual childcare costs survey for Scotland, the charity said nursery care for two-year-olds was 4.8% more expensive than last year. Part-time childcare for two children was 22% higher than the average mortgage, it added.

Parents also have to contend with a 'postcode lottery' because there is an 80% difference in nursery costs between neighbouring local authorities, according to the research, with those in expensive areas paying over £3,000 extra for part-time childcare.

Meanwhile only 23% of Scottish local authorities - under a quarter - have sufficient childcare provision for working parents compared to 54% in England.

Anand Shukla, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, said: "Many families in Scotland desperately struggle to fund childcare and, if they do, they pay a sum similar to or more than a second mortgage for it."

The charity called for a government inquiry into the variations in cost. It also recommended the introduction of free early education for all two-year-olds, and for authorities to make better use of school premises for childcare provision, particularly in rural areas

The price differences between local authorities were "quite staggering", said Julian Foster, managing director at Computershare Voucher Services, which sponsored the survey. "Bold reform us needed to address Scotland's many childcare challenges."

Responding to the report, the Scottish government said the average cost of childcare was still less than the UK as a whole but it was still taking action to bring down costs.

A spokesman said: "We know the benefits that childcare can have for children and families, but recognise that cost can be a source of concern for parents. We are taking action now to help parents with childcare costs.

"We have committed a quarter of a billion pounds over the next two years to increase the number of hours of free childcare to families of three and four years olds and the most vulnerable two year olds with a further £3.5m invested in the early years workforce.

"We are working with local authorities to give parents more choice and a greater input into the services in their area and have been clear that given the full powers over the Scottish economy our aim would be a transformational, universal system that would respond to the aspirations of parents, employers and society as a whole."

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