Hepburn welcomes ‘transformational’ childcare plans

MSP Jamie Hepburn
MSP Jamie Hepburn

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth MSP Jamie Hepburn has welcomed two exciting new developments in childcare provision which will affect both this area and the whole of Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s Children and Young People Bill, which is currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament will lead to expansion of provision of flexible childcare hours for all three, four and looked after two year olds from 475 hours a year to a minimum of 600 hours a year.

In addition to this increase, the Scottish Government has now set out how universal childcare entitlement would be expanded even further in an independent Scotland.

There are a number of announcements contained within Scottish Government’s white paper on independence which are of particular relevance to the future of childcare and early years’ provision in Scotland.

Published on Tuesday, November 26, the document, entitled, “Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland” sets out details of both what independence would mean and also what steps the current Scottish Government would take, if they are in power post-independence.

The proposed entitlement in an independent Scotland is for 30 hours of childcare each week, for 38 weeks of the year – the same number of hours as a child in school.

This policy would be rolled out over time so that by the end of the first parliament of an independent Scotland, if a yes vote wins the referendum, all three and four year olds and vulnerable two year olds will be entitled to 1,140 hours of childcare per year.

By the end of the second parliament this entitlement would be expanded to include all children from one year old to school age.

The move will benefit around 240,000 children, 212,000 families and has the additional benefit of allowing more women to return to work by removing the barrier of childcare costs.

It would also create up to 35,000 jobs in the childcare sector.

He said: “The expansion of childcare entitlement being brought in by the Children and Young People Bill and the ambitious childcare policies detailed in the white paper on independence demonstrate the Scottish Government’s commitment to improving how we as a society care for children and support families. Taken together they represent a transformational moment in childcare in Scotland.

“I will continue to monitor the progress of this important Bill and am excited by the opportunity of being able to help make these changes a reality.

“The Scottish Government has always been committed to protecting the most vulnerable members of our society and giving children the best start in life possible and this Bill will help begin to bring about the changes necessary to put children and young people at the heart of planning and services and ensuring their rights are respected across the public sector.

“While the changes contained within the Bill are exciting, attaining the sort of change which the Scottish Government seeks to make to the whole childcare sector is only achievable with the powers that a Yes vote next September will secure.

“Free copies of ‘Scotland’s Future’ are available to members of the public and I would urge everyone interested in finding out more about what an independent Scotland would look like should seek out a copy and compare what is being proposed with what the other side are offering.”

“I would also like to remind all those parents and carers with children who will be entering nursery next school year, and who are looking to take up their entitlement of 12.5 hours per week under current rules, that they should be filling out their applications and returning them to the Council. This must be done before December 19, 2013.”

Downloadable copies of “Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to An Independent Scotland” - are available at www.scotreferendum.com

Physical copies are available by phoning 0300 012 1809 or e-mailing referendumwhitepaper@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

The development comes as North Lanarkshire Council has sent out notification of the deadline for applications for nursery places throughout the Council area.

Applications for children due to start nursery at any time during the 2014/15 session should be completed and submitted to the nursery of the parent’s choice no later than December 19, 2013.

Further information and downloadable application forms are available at www.northlanarkshire.gov.uk/nurseryplaces.