New date for flagship policy announced.
All eligible children will benefit from at least 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare (ELC) from August 2021, the Children’s Minister has announced.
The expansion of funded ELC, originally intended for August 2020, was paused in April to give local authorities the flexibility to focus on responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
A new date has now been agreed with local authority umbrella group COSLA.
Children’s Minister Maree Todd said:
“I’m very pleased that we now have a new date for the full implementation of expanded ELC, and that children will benefit from more high quality funded childcare.
“We took the difficult decision in August to pause the statutory roll-out to allow local authorities to focus on responding to the pandemic and providing critical childcare, which was crucial to supporting key workers.
“The pandemic has had an obvious impact on construction and recruitment plans across the country, however local authorities have worked exceptionally hard and continued to make good progress in very challenging circumstances, and the majority of children receiving funded ELC are already receiving 1,140 hours.
“We were always clear that the suspension of the statutory duty on local authorities to provide 1,140 hours was a pause, not a stop. We will continue to work with partners over the coming months to deliver this transformational policy that will benefit families across the country.”
COSLA’s Children and Young People’s Spokesperson Councillor Stephen McCabe said:
“Local government remains committed to increasing the number of funded early learning and childcare hours, recognising the transformational effect for Scotland’s families, ensuring that children have access to the highest quality learning and care, and providing significant savings to parents and carers.
“Despite the massive challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on infrastructure projects and our recruitment programmes, all councils are delivering more that the current 600 hours entitlement to some or all families.
“We are pleased that we have jointly agreed a new date of August 2021 for the reinstatement of the statutory duty for 1140 hours. We look forward to working with all our partners, including the Scottish Government, to ensure Scotland’s children and families can benefit from almost doubling funded hours of ELC and to support the recovery from the impact of coronavirus on our communities."
Latest data from the Improvement Service, compiled in August, shows that more than 56,000 children (61% of those receiving funded ELC) are already receiving 1,140 hours, despite the statutory expansion being paused in April to give local authorities the flexibility to focus on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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