Scottish Nurseries reach ‘crisis point’
The National Day Nurseries Association report has revealed the scale of the underfunding in nurseries across Scotland, as almost half of all nurseries claim they will not be able to provide the extra childcare promised by the Scottish Government.
The commitment to provide 1140 hours of free childcare provided by staff paid at least the living wage is an admirable one, but it will only go forward with a significant increase in funding to local authorities.
A range of figures presents a frightening picture of the crisis: only 7 per cent of nurseries could meet the commitment with current funding levels, which leaves almost 80 per cent of nurseries underfunded - the average yearly shortfall is £1188 per child. 51 per cent of nurseries are planning to increase their fees next year, and on average the increase will be at least 5.8 per cent, even though real wages fell by 1.6 per cent last year.
Nurseries have also been hit by a staffing crisis, with falling rates of recruitment and retention across the board. It is critical that all nursery workers receive the living wage - but at present nurseries are struggling to pay even the minimum wage - without a significant increase in funding, it will be impossible.
The verdict of NDNA’s Chief Executive Purnima Tanuku was bleak:
“NDNA has uncovered the true predicament that nurseries in Scotland find themselves in and it has reached a crisis point.
“Private nurseries just don’t feel confident that sufficient funding will be passed onto providers by local authorities to make it worthwhile for them to deliver the full 1140 hours provision. This would drastically reduce childcare choices for parents."
Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet spokesperson on eduction, Iain Gray, said: “To see 70 per cent of independent childcare providers saying they will not participate in the childcare expansion is deeply troubling.
“Scratch beneath the surface of the SNP government’s spin and we are seeing huge problems with the implementation of this flagship childcare policy.
“The government says it needs 8,000 additional staff to deliver this flagship pledge – but will be four years late in training them all if currently levels are not significantly increased.
“Ministers have just had to promise significant extra funds to councils after underestimating their costs to deliver childcare.
“But the policy cannot be delivered without the independent nursery sector, and here they are saying it is not going to happen
“This is what happens when childcare policy is written to fit on an election leaflet, rather than to fit around the lives of Scottish families.
“There is not enough money, there are not enough staff, and there are not enough nurseries to deliver it.
“The SNP minister needs to act urgently or this is going to be just another broken SNP promise.”