Ministers warned childcare in Scotland remains unsuitable for working parents

Childcare provision in most parts of Scotland remains unsuitable for working parents, according to a parent-led campaign group.

A survey of local authorities by the Fair Funding for our Kids group has indicated some parents are still struggling to access their full free childcare entitlement.

The Scottish Government increased the entitlement to free childcare for three to five-year-olds from 475 to 600 free hours per year in 2014.

But some parents encountered a lack of flexibility, with some local authorities only offering half-day places at council nurseries.

While some families could place their children in private nurseries for the full day, councils were not always prepared to fund these places, even where the nurseries were in partnership with the local authorities.

Freedom-of-information requests by the campaign group found that in 2015/16 almost three-quarters of all free childcare places for three to five-year-olds in Scotland were offered in council-run nurseries.

Nine out of ten of these council places were for half-days only while 65% of all nursery places in Scotland were half-days only.

The group also said councils in Scotland are underfunding places in private nurseries, with 25 of 32 local authorities offering an hourly rate below the national average cost of a nursery place.

The findings represent only a slight improvement on the same survey undertaken by the group in 2014/15.

It previously estimated as many as one in five children miss out on their current legal entitlement.

A spokeswoman for the campaign said: “Despite announcements by the Scottish Government highlighting progress, our own investigations via Freedom-of-information requests and first-hand accounts from parents and nurseries have found there has been very little progress made in ensuring that Scottish parents can access their entitlement.”

Scottish Labour education spokesman Daniel Johnson said: ” The SNP government need to spend less time patting themselves on the back and more time listening to parents.

“We need to see childcare policies that fit around the lives of working families, not just on an election leaflet.

“Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts to our local services that deliver childcare and begin a move towards truly flexible, wraparound childcare.”

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