Child Care

Robert Burns – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 27 February 2003.

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Photo of Irene Oldfather Irene Oldfather Labour 2:30, 27 February 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what progress is being made in providing affordable child care. (S1O-6549)

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

Our child care strategy funding helps local authorities to secure affordable child care for pre-school and school-age children. We will increase those resources from the present £17 million to more than £40 million in 2005-06. New social justice child care funding of £20 million will also be available from next year to help people in deprived areas into work or training.

Photo of Irene Oldfather Irene Oldfather Labour

Will the minister join me in welcoming the progress that has been made in my constituency, where every parent who wishes access to after-school care for their child has such access? Have discussions taken place with, for example, new opportunities fund officials to ensure that the important progress that has been made in my area will be sustainable in future?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I welcome the improvements that have been made in Irene Oldfather's area. I know that North Ayrshire Council has worked hard on the issue and I would like to hear more about some of the innovative ideas that are being pursued. We have had discussions with new opportunities fund officials, who have decided to increase the flexibility of the fund's programmes, especially in relation to out-of-school care. All applicants can now apply for three-year funding, which should help to secure sustainability of provision.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Will the minister change the rules so that, on the day on which a child becomes three, they are entitled to free nursery education? Surely it should not be the case, as it is in the North Lanarkshire Council area, that poor parents have to pay £22.50 a week for their child to receive nursery education until the beginning of the new school term. Surely that defeats the purpose of getting people off welfare and into work.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

Alex Neil has written to me on the subject and has raised the issue before. I responded to clarify the current rules and to set out the discretion that local authorities have in respect of charges. I also point out that the forthcoming changes in relation to the children's tax credit will make it easier for parents who are going out to work or back into training to claim additional financial support to assist with such costs. We are also pursuing other ways in which to support parents through the provision of child care in the home.

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative

Child care costs have become an issue, even in the Parliament. Does the minister agree that we should ensure that those most in need are targeted and given help with child care costs? Surely that should be the minister's aim.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I am delighted that Lyndsay McIntosh is converted to what has been Executive policy for many years.