Families in Scotland hit by childcare cost rise
Childcare costs in Scotland are rising well above the rate of inflation and are outpacing rises across the rest of the UK, a survey has found.
The annual study by the Family and Childcare Trust found the cost of an after-school club went up 8.5% in Scotland over the last year.
In England, increases averaged at 2.1% and in Wales costs fell.
Rates paid by Scottish families are now higher than anywhere in the UK apart from London, the trust said.
According to the survey, 15 hours in an after-school club in Scotland now costs an average of £53.21.
The chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, Julia Margo, said there was growing concern about the "unaffordability" of childcare for Scottish parents.
"While we warmly welcome recent commitments from the Scottish government to increase the hours of free early education, we urge it to address the rising cost of childcare and make the flexibility of childcare provision a top priority," she said.
"It is also essential that the Scottish government strengthens legislation on local authorities to provide enough childcare for working parents in order to tackle the serious gaps in Scotland's childcare provision."
Currently, all three and four-year-olds in Scotland get 600 hours of free early education per year and the Scottish government has committed to extending this to 1,140 hours by 2020.
The trust's survey found that price increases in Scotland were not just isolated to after-school clubs, with costs rising for other types of childcare provision as well.
A part-time nursery place for a child over two increased to £104.06 per week - an increase of 4.1% since 2015 - and childminder fees rose by 2.7%, despite only marginal increases in the rest of Britain.
Researchers said finding childcare could also be difficult in Scotland, with only 13% of local authorities reporting they had enough provision for parents who work full-time.
But the National Day Nurseries Association Scotland said its own survey, which will be published in March, found costs were only rising by an average of 1.8% in Scotland.
It added, however, that bigger increases over the next few years were likely because of the impact of the National Living Wage.
The association's research found average nursery occupancy was at 77%, with plenty of capacity to offer more funded places to three and four-year-olds.
Chief executive Purnima Tanuku said: "Childcare in Scotland needs to be led by parental choice rather than local authority choice. This lack of continuity leads to children being moved around different settings to take advantage of funded places.
"Nurseries are keen to offer funded places, but need to be given the opportunity to do so. They also need the fees given through local authorities to cover their delivery costs, so they can maintain high-quality early education and keep their businesses sustainable."