SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Dr Aileen McLeod has welcomed the announcement by children’s minister Aileen Campbell that the region will benefit from an extra £1.5 million to implement more free and flexible nursery care.
The measure is expected to save parents of three and four year olds and the most vulnerable two year olds up to £700 a year by providing more free time in nursery. Councils will also have to ask parents about the nursery care they want for their child and offer a choice – for example two full days instead of a few hours every day – to help parents who want to return to work.
Dr McLeod said: “The SNP is working hard to help families and this measure will save parents up to £700 per child per year while the UK Government takes away from families, cutting their benefits by on average £700.
“This saving will help families manage household costs without compromising the quality of care their children receive or forcing parents to make difficult choices about whether they can afford nursery or other necessities. Given that one third of working people in Dumfries and Galloway earn less than the Living Wage, this is a particularly important measure for our region.
“By next year, all councils must ask parents what they want and offer more choice. Together with the extra hours, this could mean two full days of nursery a week instead of a few hours a morning or afternoon. This will offer mums in particular more choices and is intended to support more women back into work or training.
“This is the best nursery care ever given to Scottish families but the SNP wants to go further. Our ambition is to have the best childcare system in Europe and in doing so support families both to look after their children and be able to return to work. This announcement and the provisions of the Children and Young People’s Bill is a good first step, but while the UK Government remains in control of tax and welfare, we will always be fighting the impact of decisions taken elsewhere.
“That is why the Scottish Government has also asked the Council of Economic Advisers to consider how we can use the powers of an independent Scotland to give an even better deal for children, parents and our economic future.”