Childcare support for working parents: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

What are Scotland's plans to extend childcare support for working parents?

It was previously mentioned Scotland would be matching England's proposal but I am unable to locate if this has been confirmed?


The UK Government announcement to offer 15 hours of funded childcare, from April 2024, for working families with a child aged two, does not extend to Scotland.

The UK Government’s new offer for children under three will only be available to working parents where they earn at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage and work 16 hours a week, on average.

Since August 2021, the Scottish Government funded early learning and childcare (ELC) offer has provided up to 1140 hours per year (equivalent to 30 hours/week term time or approx. 22 hours/week year-round) for all three- and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds, regardless of the working status of their parents, compared to a universal offer of 15 hours in England for this age group. Three- and four-year-olds in England are only able to access 30 hours a week if both their parents are in paid employment.

The difference in approach to entitlements reflects the Scottish Government’s policy intention that access to more hours of funded ELC is an investment in all children’s later outcomes, underpinned by national and international evidence.

Within this year’s Programme for Government the Scottish Government has committed that, over the next year, we will work with local government and partners in the early learning and childcare sector to expand our childcare offers.

We recognise how important both early learning and school age childcare are for parents, especially those experiencing poverty. That is why we are already delivering school age childcare services to around 1,000 priority families through our early adopter work in Glasgow, Dundee, Clackmannanshire, and Inverclyde - and through our Access to Childcare Fund projects.

Over the next year we will expand our early adopter work to include Fife and Shetland and also to broaden the work to include younger children. This work will provide us with a clearer picture about what approaches deliver the greatest impact for families.

In parallel we will focus on developing a further expansion of our national offer of ELC for eligible two year olds.

We will continue to work with local authorities and our partners in the sector to support up-take of the existing two year old offer, to ensure as many children as possible receive the benefits of high quality ELC.

Furthermore, we have just published the outcomes from two key pieces of research undertaken last year to help us understand and identify what models of ELC are best for younger children.

The first is a summary of work to map current ELC provision for younger children in Scotland and the second a literature review undertaken by Public Health Scotland to understand how early entry to ELC can impact on developmental outcomes for children under three.

The evidence is mixed, with different outcomes found for different types of provision depending on the age and stage of the child, and their family circumstances. This year we will continue to work with local authorities and our partners in the sector to build on this early insights work and give us a clearer picture of what approaches deliver the greatest impact for families. This will include piloting new approaches via funding from the Whole Family Wellbeing Fund to test models of holistic family support and learning lessons from the 1140 expansion.

It will be important for us to take the time to develop this expansion properly and we will focus on engagement and on the design and development of the policy through an evidence-based approach in 2024-25.

The 2024-25 Budget is the most difficult since devolution as a result of decades of austerity and choices made by the UK Government.

This government has prioritised protecting public services, and we are continuing to invest almost £1 billion a year in high quality funded ELC. We are also committed to expanding funded childcare to help tackle child poverty, and we are going as far and as fast as budgets allow.

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Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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