An equal start: explaining @Common_Weal's new childcare report

A 'National Childcare Service' to transform early years care proposed

UNIVERSAL CHILDCARE can be expanded from the current 16 hours to 30 hours a week, if steps are taken to construct a National Childcare Service, according to a report by the Common Weal think-tank.

' An Equal Start: A plan for equality in early learning and care in Scotland ' concludes that the government target of 30 hours care by 2020 is achievable if a number of key steps are taken within existing financial budgets.

Reforming the sector

These include: a reformed approach to capital and skills development, a new fairer wage structure, a national plan for parent affordability and flexibility, and an early years curriculum.

The reports authors, including academics and those with direct childcare experience, argue that state-led organisation can lead to efficiencies and higher standards in contrast to the fragmented public, private and voluntary provision currently on offer.

Currently substantial financial sums are allocated to private providers to meet national targets. Under this model Scotland is the second most expensive destination for childcare in the EU.

Edinburgh university professor John M Davis and report author, explained: "Following a series of recent reviews that have identified key issues concerning qualifications, pay and quality in early learning and care service - this report for the first time charts out a path way to a universal early learning and child care service that will meet parents' requirements, provide excellent creative learning opportunities for children and rewards staff for the tremendous effort they have put into raising the standards of early learning and care over the last 10 years."

The Scottish Government have pledged extra funds to expand childcare, which is cited by a wide range of experts as a crucial factor in future life opportunities.

Make all day services available

The report proposes that well paid childhood practitioners operate uniformly across Scotland, with centres open from 8-6pm. Public provision is currently fragmented. A minority of areas provide all day public facility, so many parents turn to private profit making providers for care.

Cost savings

The current system of care results in a high spend for comparatively few hours. In Sweden parents pay for only 6.5 per cent of total hours, while in Scotland paid care is 27 per cent of the total.

An increase in universal care combined with a new coordinated approach would cut parent costs by between 66 and 80 per cent, according to the report.

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