‘Meeting Scotland’s Childcare Challenge’, the final report from The Commission for Childcare Reform, was published on 25 June 2015, just before the Scottish Parliament rose for its summer recess. The Commission’s final report focusses on key elements of current early learning and childcare provision, covering the vision, availability, affordability, governance and funding mechanisms, plus a number of recommendations on the data we need to monitor the effectiveness of the system.
Minsters are grateful to Colin MacLean and his team of Commissioners for their diligence, insights and thought-provoking recommendations. Ministers are also grateful to Children in Scotland and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry for their work in establishing the Commission last spring.
Ministers welcome the Commission’s recognition of the Scottish Government’s “real commitment to invest in childcare”, and their key finding that many parents are able to access high quality provision that meets their needs. The Scottish Government shares the Commission’s desired outcome that families are increasingly able to access and afford childcare that enables parents and carers to work and study, confident that their children’s needs are being well met. Ministers are committed - through on going implementation of the 2014 Children and Young People Act and our commitment to raise the free early learning and childcare entitlement to 1,140 hours per year by the end of the next Parliament - to ensure that all parents can access high quality, flexible early learning and childcare which meets their needs.
A key challenge going forward, as pointed out by the Commission, is to balance the needs of employers, parents, childcare providers and staff working in the sector without ever compromising on improving outcomes for children.
Ministers are already committed to putting children and families at the heart of policy making as part of our ambition to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.
A key challenge we face in delivering our transformation of childcare is how to balance our desire and commitment to provide high quality, flexible provision and being able to meet the cost of our aspirations. The Commission’s report provides a welcome route map on what we might achieve if we have all the resources we need, and more powers over tax, benefits and welfare spending.
The Scottish Government will continue to engage with the Childcare Alliance, through the new Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) Strategic Forum, to discuss how some of the Commission’s very laudable aspirations might become reality, and how we can collectively address and overcome current fiscal, constitutional and other barriers to ensure success with our ambitious plans.
Ministers look forward to the Alliance’s contribution, through Children in Scotland and the other bodies involved in the Alliance who are represented on the Forum - to support this vital work as it progresses in the coming months and years.