Here I am! I have spent long enough trying to get this seat, and here I am, responding on behalf of the corporate body. I thank Mary Fee for her question, and for the fact that she has raised it on international women’s day. I wish all the women in the chamber well with their cause.
The Scottish Parliament crèche is considered to be an important part of our vision as a Parliament to be open and accessible, and it is primarily there to provide childcare for visitors to the building. The crèche is, however, also available to members and staff as ad hoc childcare.
We closely monitor the crèche’s use, and collect information, including the time when the child arrives and leaves and the nature of the parent’s visit to Parliament—whether the parent was here to give evidence to a committee, to visit chamber business or for some other type of activity. We also collect information on the age of the child—whether they are under or over the age of two.
The information that we collect is reviewed regularly and the average length of stay is identified, along with all the reasons why people use the crèche, so that we can understand that. I hope that that answer is helpful.
I thank Kezia Dugdale for that very helpful and full answer.
Given the growing pressure on working families, the rising cost of childcare and the size of the Parliament’s staff, what consideration has the Parliament given to expanding the crèche service into a nursery that could serve both the needs of visitors to the Parliament and the childcare challenges that its members and staff face?
The Parliament is alive to its responsibilities to be a decent employer operating a flexible working environment, particularly around the issues of gender equality that are so much in our minds today. The issue has been looked at on a number of occasions by previous corporate body memberships, who have always agreed that the crèche is primarily a facility for visitors to the Parliament. That said, the crèche is managed in such a way that it can be used by members and their staff on an ad hoc basis, in an appropriate manner; they pay, of course, while visitors to the Parliament do not.
We have looked in the past at what it would take to have a nursery facility on the site and I am sure that Mary Fee is more than well aware that that would require different ratios of staff to children and some physical changes to the building, because of the requirements to have outdoor space for the running of a nursery. There would also have to be an increased level of structured learning and development. That is the main difference between nursery provision and a crèche, which is primarily a childcare facility. We are constantly looking at those issues.
I will end by saying that the majority of the people who use the crèche are visitors—they are about 85 per cent of the users, while 15 per cent of the people currently accessing the crèche are members and their staff. We are alive to the issues and we will continue to monitor the use of the crèche closely.