South Scotland

Scottish Borders childcare rollout to proceed despite unfairness claims

nursery children Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The council is phasing in extra childcare hours across the region

A council is to continue its planned rollout of extra childcare hours despite discrimination claims from some parents.

A petition in Peebles claimed some households in more affluent areas were benefiting while others in less well-off parts of town were missing out.

It wanted the rollout to be expanded to all children in the town.

However, Scottish Borders Council officers did not support the change and councillors backed that view.

From August 2020, every parent in the region will be entitled to 1,140 hours of free childcare for all youngsters aged three or four, as well as eligible two-year-olds, up from the previous entitlement of 600 hours.

Prioritised areas

SBC has been phasing the new entitlement in early in some parts of the region, leaving some parents having to pay more than others for the same nursery placements.

The council has prioritised areas for extra hours after establishing which have the greatest needs based on a child poverty index.

Peebles resident Christine Irving organised a petition calling on the council to expand the rollout to all children in Peebles.

Parents say that some of the most privileged households from the north of the town are benefiting from extra childcare hours, due to a small pocket of deprivation close by, whereas children who are less well off in the south of the town are missing out.

Michelle Strong, the council's chief education officer, told the executive committee that officers did not support altering the planned roll out: "There are concerns about deviating from the planned phasing, given the scale of the rollout.

"As you know, the Care Inspectorate oversees all early learning childcare provision.

"If the council wishes to make changes they must be agreed with the Care Inspectorate and that could take several months."

'Way forward'

She said making changes would create additional work pressures and "create confusion for parents".

Ms Strong added that making one exception might encourage others to look for exceptions and would also carry a financial cost.

Kelso and district councillor Tom Weatherston told the committee: "I can see why parents get upset when some get extra childcare hours and others don't, but the Scottish government has allowed local authorities to roll this out in stages.

"If officers are telling us this is the best way forward, then I'm happy to support them."

His colleagues agreed and voted to instruct officers not to deviate from the agreed rollout plan of extra childcare hours.

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