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Providers in the private and third sectors, including childminders, are vital to the expansion of early learning and childcare. We are supporting all providers in the transition to 2020, when parents will have greater flexibility to access their child’s entitlement from high-quality partner settings. We introduced 100 per cent rates relief for day nurseries in April and established the ELC partnership forum, and we are significantly increasing funding for providers to deliver our living wage commitment.
I thank the minister for that response. However,
“Unless the Government steps in and sorts this out very quickly, then the whole project of 1,140 hours is going to collapse”.
Those are not my words, but the words of the childcare providers. Even the minister’s colleagues in the Scottish National Party have raised concerns from childcare providers in their constituencies. Will the minister agree to investigate those concerns urgently before it is too late for nurseries, children and parents?
I take the opportunity to reiterate just how crucial partner providers will be to the success of the expansion. We are working hard, as I think the response to a freedom of information request from the member demonstrated, to tackle areas where there are partner concerns with local authorities. We are creating the mechanisms to strengthen meaningful partnership working between local authorities and ELC providers and to promote good practice. I work very closely on the matter with my colleague Councillor Stephen McCabe, who is my counterpart in the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.
As part of the “funding follows the child” approach, local authorities and ELC providers will be working together meaningfully and in genuine partnership to deliver the funded entitlement, and the ELC partnership forum, which met for the first time this week, will drive action, enable the sharing of good practice and partnership working and enable authorities and providers to work together constructively to identify solutions to challenges.
As I said, we have established the partnership forum, where we bring together partners from all over the country, and we not only identify the challenging areas where relationships are not great, but look at the areas where partnerships are really strong—for example, Moray and Angus.