Early learning and childcare – 1,140 hours and beyond MSPs briefing | CPAG

Early learning and childcare – 1,140 hours and beyond MSPs briefing

Post date: 
17 November 2021
Written by: 

Ed Pybus

Policy and Parliamentary Officer

Early learning and childcare – 1,140 hours and beyond

2nd November 2021

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The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland works for the one in four children in Scotland growing up in poverty. We collect evidence from families living in poverty and campaign for solutions to bring about a society where children have a fair chance in life free from hardship. We provide training, advice and information on social security to frontline workers to make sure families get the financial support they need.

Scotland has legally binding child poverty targets[1]. These targets can only be met with further investment in social security – doubling the Scottish child payment must be a top priority. Investment in social security is necessary, but it is not sufficient to meet these targets. Childcare has a vital role to play in reducing child poverty.

Last week CPAG in Scotland held a roundtable event to discuss how childcare provision can help reduce child poverty.  Over 40 organisations attended the event, representing the third sector, childcare providers, local authorities and the Scottish Government, to discuss their visions for childcare.

Barriers

The barriers to childcare fulfilling its potential to reduce child poverty have been well documented[2].

Lack of affordable, accessible childcare is one of the major barriers to female employment. We know that closing the gender employment gap will go a long way towards meeting Scotland’s long terms child poverty targets. Real gaps exist, particularly for older children, children with disabilities and where parents work atypical hours and costs are high compared to other countries. We heard that certain communities, such as BME communities, face additional barriers to access childcare. We understand that as well as being a barrier to employment, a lack of childcare is also a barrier to training, education and accessing other essential services such as healthcare.

Low paid workers

Many of those employed providing childcare services are low paid. 91% of workers in childcare are women, many paid very low wages - for example  comparison of wages across EU and US shows that in the UK care workers are paid 51% of the average full time wage whereas care workers in, for example,  Denmark are paid 81% of the average full time wage[3]. These low-paid childcare workers are often also parents living in poverty, improving pay and conditions of childcare workers will not only help recruit and retain staff but also lift families out of poverty.

Solutions

Childcare must be available to all who need it. Childcare must be affordable to all, flexible to people’s needs and, where provision is not universal, it must be stigma free to ensure those who need it take up the available provision. In our Programme for Government we called for this parliament to:

  • Boost the provision of funded, good quality  and flexible education and childcare  through the delivery of the increased 1140  hours of funded childcare entitlement  for young children and, acting on the  recommendations of the Social Renewal  Advisory Board and the National Advisory  Council on Women and Girls, extend  entitlement to 50 hours per week for all  children between six months and five years  old at the earliest opportunity;
  • Develop comprehensive, out-of-school and  holiday childcare; and
  • Invest in a ‘supply side model’ of childcare provision that invests in a well-paid, high quality childcare workforce.

At our event, we also heard about the importance of unpaid childcare. It is important that the role of unpaid childcare is valued, and the value of this childcare is understood.

We also heard that there is a lack of clarity around the opportunities, and constraints, that the procurement process provides to drive up wages, conditions and quality of childcare. The Scottish Government should provide local authorities with clear guidance as to how the procurement process can help childcare services meet aspirations of the fair work agenda.

We welcome the commitments made in the Scottish government’s Programme for Government to extend funded early learning and childcare to one and two year olds and to develop wraparound school age childcare before and after school and during school holidays. The challenge now is to build on these commitments and ensure they are delivered in and a way, and to a timescale, that demonstrably contributes to meeting the child poverty targets.

Social Security

Our evidence shows how the current system of support for families with childcare cost via social security is complex, bureaucratic and full of gaps. Social security support for childcare is reserved but the Scottish parliament must consider how to support families negotiate this support, if more help can be provide to pay upfront fees and to understand the implication on the fiscal framework of the provision of additional free childcare in Scotland.

CONTACT : Ed Pybus | Policy and Parliamentary Officer

Mobile: 07903 638 226 |Main: 0141 552 3303 | Email: [email protected]

 

 

[1] The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 requires Scottish Ministers to ensure less than 18% of children are living in poverty by 2023/24 and less than 10% of children are living in poverty by 2030. The latest figures show that one in four are in poverty.

[3] A Care-Led Recovery  From Covid-19: Investing in High-Quality Care to Stimulate And Rebalance The  Economy, Feminist Economics, Vol 27 2021