SCOTLAND is at risk of being “left behind” on childcare in the coming year, Scottish Labour warned today.
South of the border, three and four-year olds have a statutory entitlement to 15 hours’ nursery education, but a formal agreement to achieve this in Scotland by 2010 has been delayed.
Only a handful of Scottish councils meet that level, prompting Scottish Labour to warn of a postcode lottery for Scottish families.
The last Labour government inScotland started pilot schemes for pre-school education for vulnerable 2 year olds in Glasgow,Dundee and North Ayrshire, but the SNP chose to cancel them in 2007.
A recent survey by Save the Children and the Daycare Trust found that Scottish childcare costs are the highest in the UKand, that a third of families living on less than £12,000 a year had gone into debt due to care costs.
The Social Market Foundation recently found that the increase in childcare costs for the average family is the equivalent (£600) of what they will spend this year on Christmas.
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Margaret Curran said: “Childcare is of huge importance to women and families throughout Scotland and it is also of huge importance for the Scottish economy as it helps parents get to work.
“There is a real fear that childcare is becoming a luxury because too many families simply cannot afford it.
“Affordable, flexible childcare is a must for a modern economy and the SNP government are falling very far behind. In fact Scotland is now significantly behind the rest of the UK.
“Recent announcements on looked-after children are welcome but fall a long way short of what we need to see.
“I recognise that the scale of the change needed is significant , but with determination and cross-party support, we can make real progress for Scotland.
“I am calling to make childcare an absolute priority for 2012.”