Scottish Families are sending a powerful message to decision makers – childcare is holding them back. Those struggling on low incomes are particularly badly affected. The charity Save the Children spent the past 18 months travelling the country to hear over 150 parents’ concerns – the result: a new report called ‘Give us a Hand with Childcare’.
The report found that families held strong views. They argued that their children are missing out on opportunities to learn and parents were finding it harder and harder to balance work with raising a family due to lack of suitable, available and affordable childcare. They key word here is ‘affordable’. Parents are finding that childcare so expensive that it’s becoming a luxury that only families earning a very good income can comfortably afford. Families on low incomes simply don’t earn enough to cover their childcare bill as well as living costs – making work an unrealistic option.
Some of the most surprising revelations from parents include the sheer reliance on family and friends, some of whom live a great distance away, as well as the varying availability of childcare throughout Scotland. The charity has heard stories of parents who have given up college courses due to high costs of childcare, or one parent on minimum wage paying £6,500 per year to keep her child in nursery. West Dunbartonshire mums, Caroline Wilson and Lori Summers were both invited to give evidence on childcare in the Scottish Parliament last week (10th Sept).
Caroline said: “One of my main difficulties is finding after school childcare that will fit for my family. It’s so expensive and there’s very little availability. It traps parents into not being able to work or take up other opportunities. It would be a good thing to prioritise deprived areas as it would give people the choice to study or work. It would help children to get the best start in life”.
Lori, who studies during the day and whose partner works evening shifts to accommodate looking after the children, added that “we rarely get to spend time as a family; my partner has to work when I’m not at college to balance the childcare. As my youngest is two and there’s nothing to help families with childcare at that age and I just couldn’t afford to put him in nursery. I want to be self-employed in future, I don’t want to be rich and rolling in money, I just want to be comfortable and able to do the best I can for my children”.
Save the Children has been speaking out on this issue for a number of years now, citing affordable childcare as a ‘vital service’ and ‘crucial to the Scottish economy’. According to Claire Telfer, the charity’s Head of Policy and Campaigns in Scotland, “Parents are asking for a helping hand with childcare. Parents tell us that they are still struggling to access affordable, accessible and flexible childcare and this is holding them and their families back. One of the most striking findings was the level of consensus that emerged on what parents want and what needs to urgently change – no matter where parents live and what age their child is. Parents have told us how it us, it’s time for decision makers to listen and act and that’s why Save the Children, alongside Scottish parents are campaigning for reform.
“This report provides an opportunity to hear directly from parents across Scotland about their experiences and needs when it comes to childcare. The Bill is a golden opportunity to transform a vital service that supports children’s and parents’ wellbeing and is at the heart of Scotland’s social and economic infrastructure. We hope that the Scottish Government and other key stakeholders will be ready to listen, step up and take strides to support families in their call to give them a hand with childcare.”
The charity’s campaign to give all families a right to decent childcare launches ahead of a Parliamentary Committee meeting today which will hear evidence on proposals to extending access to early learning and childcare included in the Children & Young People Bill. Save the Children wants the Scottish Government to use the Bill to give all families a right to high quality, affordable and flexible childcare.