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Free Childcare (Access to Entitlement)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd November 2016.

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Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

16. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that every eligible child has access to their entitlement to 1,140 hours of free childcare provision. (S5O-00380)

Photo of Mark McDonald Mark McDonald Scottish National Party

We have published the consultation “A Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland”, which sets out the Scottish Government’s vision for transforming early learning and childcare. That vision is underpinned by the four principles of quality, flexibility, accessibility and affordability. The consultation seeks views on the key policy choices that are required to deliver the vision, including future funding options and models of delivery. We will publish our response to the consultation in spring 2017.

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

Birthday discrimination remains a problem. Groups such as fair funding for our kids continually highlight the issue. Surely the Scottish Government can agree that it is unacceptable that the month in which a child is born can dictate their allowance of childcare.

Photo of Mark McDonald Mark McDonald Scottish National Party

Peter Chapman raises a point that the Conservatives have raised on more than one occasion. It is worth noting that local authorities have the flexibility to offer early learning provision to the children to whom he refers should they choose to do so, and some local authorities do just that. However, for that to be applied across the board, we estimate that it would cost in the region of £26 million over and above what is currently being spent. If the Conservatives wish to spend extra money, they have to tell us where they would find it.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

How much money has the Scottish Government provided to local authorities to deliver 600 hours of free early learning and childcare and how much of that funding have councils spent?

Photo of Mark McDonald Mark McDonald Scottish National Party

The financial review of early learning and childcare, which was published in September, highlighted that we had provided £329.2 million of additional revenue and £170 million of additional capital to support the delivery of the expansion of entitlement to 600 hours. The review indicated that, over the same period, local authority spending on early learning and childcare increased by £189.1 million in revenue terms. Capital spending was £17 million in 2014-15, yet additional capital funding of £71 million was provided in that year.

Although the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has provided new information to the Education and Skills Committee, we consider that the original figures, which were provided to us by councils and reported in the financial review, remain robust. We will, of course, study COSLA’s letter and information with interest, and I am sure that the Education and Skills Committee will continue to maintain its strong interest in the matter. However, it is clear from the information in the financial review that we have fully funded our commitment on early learning and childcare expansion.