Poor not helped by childcare on the cheap

2nd February 2007 at 00:00
This time last year there were more than 1,000 out-of-school care services in Scotland. More than half provided childcare places set up through Big Lottery funding, which has now run out for most of them.

More than half are "managed" by what we call part-time voluntary managers, parent committees who use the service or volunteer board members of social enterprise-type larger-scale services.

This precious resource, so important to the children involved, is too dependent on volunteers taking on the running of complex small businesses which rightly have to meet a host of regulations and standards, and where it is rightly expected that staff will be qualified professionals - despite the fact that some are paid less than cleaners.

The collapse of the One Plus organisation in Glasgow is the latest example of the struggle facing childcare services across Scotland. They are catering for those who would benefit not just from early intervention, but from ongoing support such as that provided through out-of-school care, which also enables parents to work.

In reality, the idea that tax credits would provide the magic formula where parents could afford to pay the true market cost for their childcare has not worked for poor families. This is childcare on the cheap. It is unstable. It is failing our children.

This year, the Scottish Executive invested more than pound;40 million in its national childcare strategy. Where does this money go? It seems a lot, but is it enough?

Whose duty is it, then? Do we continue to ask that parent volunteers take responsibility, alongside the private sector and a small handful of local authorities who provide daycare and out-of-school care? Or do we invest in our children now by directly funding and sustaining good-quality services and by making it a duty for our government, national and local, to provide this support, instead of placing such a high burden on volunteers?

Let us really invest in Scotland's children.

Irene Audain MBE chief executive, TheScottish Out of School Care Network, Wellington Street, Glasgow

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