A Final Message from FFFOK

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We’re a couple of mums. Our names are Katherine and Carolyn.
Three years ago, we got involved in a campaign called Fair Funding for our Kids, set up by Glasgow mums who were frustrated they couldn’t access their free childcare hours.

When those original mums moved on from the campaign,  we moved in to run it. We had to – both of us had experienced the bewilderingly foggy world of pre-school childcare, and both of us were keen to improve it.

Did we succeed? Well, yes and no.

Yes, in that we got childcare for working parents onto the political agenda. No more could MSPs look at us blankly and say,

“But we’ve delivered the free 600 hours, haven’t we?”

Our research reports – compiled in between jobs, kids, housework and occasionally acknowledging the existence of our husbands – comprehensively proved that they had not. Over the years, we found out that:

Almost half of ALL nursery places in Scotland were for half days only – impossible for most working parents to use

Just one in ten council nurseries was open from 8am6pm or longer

Two-thirds of councils required parents to pay up-front for their supposedly free childcare

Only four Scottish councils had reciprocal agreements with every other council about handling cross-boundary nursery placements

Nine out of ten parents who wanted to change their working situation said that finding appropriate childcare was the biggest barrier.

And there have been positive changes.

Councils are, gradually, moving away from the hated half day place. Our first survey, in 2015, found that 98% of all council nursery places were for half days. By the time of our final survey, in 2018, this stood at 68%: a reduction of over a quarter.

And of course, there is the Blueprint: the Scottish Government document which promises that, by 2020, the entitlement will be 1150 hours and funding will follow the child, meaning parents can place their child in any nursery which meets their needs. In theory, this should spell the end of the half-day place for everyone except those it genuinely suits.

We are proud of our record. But have we achieved everything we wanted to?

Not by a long shot. We hoped to see much faster change. We are acutely aware that there are still many parents being offered 9am-12.10pm places that they cannot make use of, therefore missing out on their funded hours. There are still parents who need their child to go to nursery in a different council area than the one they live in, but cannot get any local authority to accept responsibility for their needs. And there are plenty of parents who are just bamboozled by the whole impenetrable patchwork of local childcare services, and can’t understand why it needs to be so complicated.

To all those parents, we are sorry we couldn’t persuade politicians to fix the system in time for your child. We did try. And we are grateful to all of you who spoke out in support of our campaigning. So many parents – far too many to name – let us quote them in press releases, blogs and tweets. Others appeared on the radio and TV, usually for the first time, conquering their nerves in order to speak up for themselves and their peers. This campaign would literally have been nothing without you. Thank you.

We’re grateful, too, to the journalists who took the time to listen to us. The problems with half-day places are neither easy nor quick to explain, but we never struggled to get a hearing from the media.

And thanks are also due to the politicians and civil servants who did listen, and raised our issues repeatedly in parliament and in government meetings.

We think now is the time to call it quits. With the 2020 deadline just a year away, it’s hard to focus attention on the problems that still exist in our childcare system. And by 2020, neither of us will have kids in nursery anymore.

So what now? From 2020, we want to see:

– A complete end to councils capping the number of partnership places they will fund

– A national agreement on funding children who live in one area but need to attend nursery in another

– Ring-fenced childcare funding

– A minimum hourly rate to be paid to providers by local authorities.

It won’t be for us to follow up on these expectations: we’ll be navigating a new world of schools, exams and parents’ nights. But we have no doubt, if the promises of the 2020 Blueprint are not met, there will be a new group of parents who will get together around a kitchen table and decide that enough is enough.

If this experience has taught us anything, it’s that parent power is real. We are not throwing away the experience of Fair Funding for our Kids. We’re just putting it aside, ready for the next generation.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us.

Katherine and Carolyn

March 2019

Two out of three children in council nurseries get just three hours of care per day

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Fair Funding for our Kids has found that two out of three children attending council nurseries get care for just three hours and ten minutes per day. 

Response to our recent FOIs found that 68% of council places were offered for half days only. This is an improvement on Fair Funding’s first FOI report in 2015, when the figure stood at 95%. However, at this rate of change, it will take until 2026 to end the practice of half-day places.

Other key findings in the report were: 

  • 70% of all free childcare places for 3-5 year olds in Scotland were offered in council run nurseries.
  • 68% of all council nursery places for 3-5 year olds were half days only
  • 48% of all nursery places in Scotland were half days only
  • 16% of all nursery places are for full days in term time only
  • Less than 3% of all nursery places are for full days all year round
  • Local authorities in Scotland were underfunding places in private nurseries by up to £461 per child
  • 21 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities were offering an hourly rate below the national average cost of a nursery place

A spokesperson for the campaign said,

“Early years care is so important, but working parents continue to miss out. Very few people have bosses who are prepared to let them work for less than three hours a day, and many don’t have grandparents who can fill gaps in childcare. We need much faster progress in eliminating half-day places except where parents specifically request them”. 

9 out of 10 nurseries not covering normal working hours, Fair Funding reveals

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Fair Funding for our Kids has renewed calls for nursery reform after our research revealed nine out of ten council nurseries don’t provide the cover working parents need.

Just one week after a damning Audit Scotland childcare report, our Freedom of Information requests show just one in ten council nurseries are open between 8am-6pm or longer. Nineteen councils had no nurseries which were open between 8am-6pm: the hours that campaigners say most parents need, if they’re to hold down a job.

Although twenty-three councils claimed they offered at least some children “full-day” places, in fact only 3% of all children attending council nurseries have nursery places starting at 8am or earlier. And just 2% have places ending at 5.15pm or later.

Carolyn Lochhead, parent volunteer at Fair Funding for our Kids said,

“Our research shows that the system is just not set up for working parents – the very people the Scottish Government say they want to help. If you don’t have grandparents nearby who can help with drop-off and pick-up, then it’s almost impossible to make use of a council nursery place”.

In Glasgow, less than two-fifths of the 110 council nurseries are open between 8am-6pm. What’s more, despite the council’s claim that 43 of its nurseries do operate these opening hours, it appears few children are benefitting from them: just 6% of children start at 8am or earlier, and only 4% finish at 5.15pm or later

Lanarkshire parent Moira Gibb commented,

“I’ve had to change my working hours to do thirty hours over five days, so I can collect my little girl at 4pm. And even that wouldn’t work if my dad didn’t do a 40 mile round trip every day to take her to nursery”.

The campaigners say that even a “full-day” place is impossible for many parents to access: one council defines “full-day” as 9am-3.30pm, while another says its “full day” ends at 4.17pm. And there are other disparities in provision across the country.

In East Renfrewshire, all of the 17 local authority nurseries are open between 8am-6pm or longer, yet in neighbouring Renfrewshire, less than half of its 34 nurseries offer these hours.

This compares poorly to East Dunbartonshire, where over a third of children are able to start at or before 8am and over ten per cent can finish after 5pm.

Parents of children aged 3 or 4 are entitled to 600 hours of free childcare per year. And the Scottish Government says its early learning and childcare policy should “support parents to work, train or study, especially those who need help with finding sustainable employment.”

Fair Funding for our Kids is calling for:

  • An end to councils capping the number of places in partnership nurseries they will fund
  • A national agreement on funding children who live in one area but need to attend nursery in another
  • Ring-fenced childcare funding
  • A minimum hourly rate to be paid to providers by local authorities

 

NINE OUT OF TEN PARENTS SAY LACK OF CHILDCARE IS HOLDING BACK THEIR CAREER

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Fair Funding for our Kids Research shows nine out of ten parents who want to change their working situation say the main barrier is lack of appropriate childcare.

And more than two-fifths of parents are dissatisfied with their childcare arrangements. The findings are revealed in a new report based on a survey of over 400 parents.

Parents of children aged 3 or 4 are entitled to 600 hours of free childcare per year. And the Scottish Government says its early learning and childcare policy should “support parents to work, train or study, especially those who need help with finding sustainable employment.”

But half of parents who were unhappy with their childcare arrangements said it was because the hours available were too short or did not suit their working arrangements.

This is largely because most councils only offer free childcare hours in slots of 3 hours 10 minutes during term time only, with no option for parents to buy extra hours for the rest of the day: an unusable system for many working families. Research by the Fair Funding campaign in 2016 found that half of all nursery places in Scotland were for half days only.

 

The report, Beyond the Half Day Place, also reveals fifteen per cent of parents are receiving no free hours at all for their 3 or 4 year old. This follows a 2015 Care Inspectorate report which found a third of 3-4 year olds were not receiving their funded place.

The Scottish Government plans to increase the entitlement to 1140 hours by 2020, and has published a blueprint setting out how it will achieve this by providing more flexible childcare. But campaigners point out today’s nursery age children will be at school by 2020, and are demanding immediate action.

 

 

Two Thirds of Nursery Places Half Days

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Two-thirds of nursery places in Scotland are half-day only, Fair Funding for our Kids has revealed.

And nine out of ten council places are only offered for half days, making them almost unusable for most working parents. These and other findings are in our new report, based on Freedom of Information requests submitted to every local authority in Scotland. You can also check out every FOI response we received, to see what your local authority told us.

 

The childcare system in Scotland isn’t working

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Thousands of families in Scotland are unable to access their legal entitlement to 600 hours free early learning and childcare for 3 to 5 year olds.

We are acting to find out where this is happening and why.

Help us change things for the better. Join our campaign for fair funding!

Who we are

The Fair Funding campaign group.

What’s the problem?

A straightforward guide to the key issues.

How does this affect me?

If you are a parent or carer of a toddler, read on.

Your stories

Families share stories of their unfair childcare funding experiences.

What can I do?

Steps you can take to improve the situation.

Press coverage

Media coverage of the campaign and childcare issues.

The Glasgow Campaign

Information about our flagship campaign in Glasgow.

Fair Funding Poll

Easy, one-click poll: is your child getting their nursery funding?

NEWS

NEWS – 11th May 2016 Campaign Toolkit One in five children is missing out on their free nursery place, because of inflexible hours and a system that just isn’t set up for working parents.  But still the Government claims to have delivered 600 hours of free childcare for every three and four year old. With the…