Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lib Dems tackle childcare in parliamentary debate

Since last May, the Liberal Democrats have not had a lot of speaking time at Holyrood. We usually get at most one or two slots in a 3 hour debate.

Today is the first time we've actually had the chance to set the agenda in the place. And what issue have we chosen? One which affects lots of ordinary families - affordable childcare. Scots parents pay proportionately more than other parts of the country.

 It would be wrong to view that only in the context of cuts the UK Government are making to tax credits or child benefit. I suspect the temptation on the SNP benches will be to concentrate on that, without giving attention to what they can do to help reduce the disparity in cost. You have to wonder what the profit margin is if it costs over £5000 a year to keep one two year old in childcare. You can see that for some parents, with more than one, it'll be hardly worth going to work.

Our mothers' generation had their mothers to look after their children. This is not the case for parents today. Nick Clegg intends to change the parental leave system and understands that both parents should have the flexibility to decide these things between them.

That's a positive thing from the UK Government and it's good that he's trying to shift the responsibility away from just mothers so as not to give employers the excuse to discriminate against women.

The focus of today's debate from the Scottish Liberal Democrats will be on providing high quality affordable childcare in every community, calling on the Scottish Government to set out a strategy to achieve this and to look at increasing the entitlement to nursery education as has been done in England by the Liberal Democrats in Government.

Our Children's spokesperson Liam McArthur said:

“Access to affordable, high quality childcare not only supports children’s learning and development but also enables parents to return to work, which is so important in these tough financial times. 
“Scotland is lagging behind England on entitlement to free pre-school education. This is not good enough. 
“Also across Scotland, there are huge variations in cost and availability of childcare services putting many families at a disadvantage purely because of their postcode. 
“The Scottish Government needs to follow the lead taken by the UK coalition Government when it comes to the provision of childcare north of the border. 
“Giving our children the best start in life is so important to their future life chances. We need to make sure that Scotland’s children are getting this chance.” 

I'm hoping that there will be a thoughtful and serious debate on this - Scotland's children and their parents deserve it.

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