Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie today warned the Scottish Government is set to “leave families in the lurch” after a buried report showed the Scottish Government’s early learning expansion is 5,135 childcare places and 416 staff behind schedule.
The report, dated June 2019, was only made available in response to a Scottish Liberal Democrat parliamentary question answered on 7 August. It wasn’t the subject of either a Scottish Government or Improvement Service press release and it hasn’t appeared on either of their publications pages or on social media, despite being highly anticipated by those in the sector.
The report shows:
- The number of places that could be provided for 1140 hours in local authority settings is 20.6% below forecast. Forecast total capacity was 24,970 children, but the actual capacity is 19,835 children.
- The number of staff recruited is 16.1% below forecast. The forecast number of additional full-time equivalent staff in place was 2,589, but the actual figure is 2,173.
- Only “approximately 10%” of the additional infrastructure capacity required for the expansion is complete, with 44 more projects “in construction” and 738 projects “in development”.
Willie Rennie commented:
“It is easy to see why the Scottish Government would be keen to bury this dire report without so much as a press release.
“While the childcare minister Maree Todd has been brazenly telling everyone that the expansion is on track, these figures show in black and white that simply isn’t the case. Even with reports that private nurseries are haemorrhaging staff to local authority nurseries, these figures show that the local authority recruitment target was missed by over 400. This is seriously embarrassing.
“Liberal Democrats worked hard to persuade the SNP that free early learning and childcare is one of the best investments we can make and is critical to improving a child’s life chances. However, the resulting expansion of free hours has now been shown to be behind schedule and some nurseries are actually shutting because of a lack of staff. They should be thriving.
“There is precisely one year to go until parents are expecting to take up the expanded entitlement. They will already be making plans. This report indicates that the Scottish Government is set to leave families in the lurch unless it seriously steps up its efforts.”