The STUC will work across the early years sector to ensure that all parents have access to free, universal and flexible childcare, geared to the needs of children and their families and will press the Scottish Government for proper resources to support this.
Welcoming the commitment to date from the Scottish Government, political parties, business and civil society to good quality early years education, child care and out of school care, delegates nevertheless recognised that the rising costs of child care in Scotland still means that for many families, work does not pay, and has led to many parents, mainly women, giving up their jobs.
Supporting, UNISON’s Carol Ball, Chair of UNISON Scotland’s Education Issues Group drew attention to UNISON’s Childcare Charter launched last month which mirrors much of the composite.
Carol said, “At the heart of any provision offered, its standards and design must meet the needs of those it is being provided for, and in this case it is for the early learning, care and wellbeing needs of children and young people. This must be paramount when we are discussing what needs to be provided.”
She told delegates that UNISON’s Charter calls for childcare free at the point of delivery, provided by the public sector, not for profit and designed by local communities.
Carol welcomed the increase to 600 hours of early learning and childcare, but told of UNISON’s concerns that this was not backed up by the increased resources needed for planning, evaluation and monitoring learning or to respond to the additional support needs of children.
She warned, “Providing greater flexibility and a seamless service has an impact on the workforce itself – a workforce that is predominantly female with their own caring responsibilities. Already as a result of the 600 hours many of our members have had their conditions changed, having to work longer hours yet refused flexible working requests. Now they have to juggle their work commitments with no sustained child care in place.”
She also slammed the current salary differentials in the early year’s workforce which can be as low as £6.50 in the private sector. “High quality can only be achieved when the workforce is appropriately trained, rewarded and have career paths,” said Carol.