First Minister visits North Edinburgh Childcare
FM announces £1 million for early learning and childcare trials
A report into what more the Scottish Government and others can do to tackle poverty in Scotland has been welcomed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Ms Sturgeon used today’s visit to North Edinburgh Childcare to announce £1 million funding to support new early learning and childcare initiatives.
The Independent Advisor on Poverty and Inequality, Naomi Eisenstadt (who accompanied the First Minister on her visit to North Edinburgh) has reported back after spending the last six months seeking views from stakeholders across Scotland, including people with experience of living on a low income.
In her ‘Shifting the Curve’ report, Ms Eisenstadt has made a number of recommendations to further tackle poverty around three main areas – in-work poverty, housing affordability and young people’s life chances (see below).
Confirming early action on one of the report’s recommendations, the First Minister announced £1 million of funding for up to six early learning and childcare trials to test different delivery models.
The trials will consider how to increase flexibility, better meet the needs of parents and children and meet local requirements. The results will be used as part of the expansion of childcare to 1140 hours a year.
The First Minister and Ms Eisenstadt this morning visited flagship local project North Edinburgh Childcare, a charity which enables local parents to access increased opportunities for work, training or education by providing affordable and flexible childcare.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “When I appointed Naomi to the role I was clear that she would work independently and be frank and challenging in her scrutiny of not only the work the Scottish Government was doing to alleviate poverty and inequality, but also what more can be done.
“I thank Naomi for the work she has carried out and welcome the report that she has published today. We now need to study it and look at what we’re doing well and should continue to do, and where we can improve. We will respond formally to the report before the end of March and set out how we intend to take forward its recommendations.”
Announcing the establishment of a programme of childcare trials and the Early Learning and Childcare National Summit, the First Minister added that the government will work with childcare organisations and parents to finalise the approaches that will be tested:
“This report from the Poverty Adviser highlights the importance that access to quality early learning and childcare has for both children and adults in tackling poverty. It helps improve educational outcomes, while it allows parents and carers to return to work, education or training.
“By trialling different methods with local authorities and child care providers, we will be better able to understand what parents and children need and want, and what is actually working. This will be crucial as we move forward with our transformational expansion of childcare.
“We need to work together to achieve our dual aims of providing high quality early learning and childcare that also meets the needs of parents, and that’s why we will convene a National Summit in February so we can discuss these issues and work together to deliver an expanded childcare service that plays its part in tackling poverty and improving lives.”
Good quality affordable childcare is crucial to enable parents to work or study, but budget cuts in recent years has made it tougher and tougher for voluntary organisations like North Edinburgh Childcare make ends meet.
North Edinburgh Childcare’s general manager Theresa Allison told reporters: “We have come through a lot of pain with regard to funding. We have taken an overall cut of 20% in the last two years and that clearly comes at a cost.”
Naomi Eisenstadt’s ‘Shifting the Curve’ report sets out 15 recommendations on what more the Scottish Government and others can do to tackle poverty in Scotland. These include proposals on:
- The living wage, quality childcare, family-friendly working, and benefits uptake – to tackle in-work poverty;
- Building more social housing, targeting fuel poverty programmes on low income households, and being bold on local tax reform – to address housing affordability;
- Reviewing policies and services relevant to older children and young adults, with particular emphasis on those from poorer backgrounds, to boost young people’s life chances; and
- Ensuring that public service delivery is respectful, person-centred and preserves the dignity of people in poverty.
Ms Eisenstadt (pictured above) said: “I’ve been struck by the genuinely open and constructive approach that people have taken in engaging with me in my role as Independent Advisor.
“The key message for me is that everyone has a role to play, local government, the voluntary sector, the Scottish Government and people in poverty themselves, who clearly have the best understanding of the challenges of living on a low income.”
Professor Annette Hastings, of University of Glasgow said: “This report is likely to make an important contribution to the debate in Scotland on how to ‘shift the curve’ in relation to the experience of poverty in a fundamental and sustainable way.
“I welcome in particular the two recommendations which seek to support government and public agencies to prioritise tackling poverty and to embed it in the way in which they work. These recommendations recognise that people with low incomes need to be treated with more respect than is sometimes the case. It suggests that careful screening should take place of the policies and day to day activities of public agencies to ensure that they do not inadvertently further disadvantage people living on low incomes.”
Allan Young from the Poverty Truth Commission said: “The Poverty Truth Commission welcomes this report. Naomi has been actively involved in our Mutual Mentoring Scheme, where she was paired up with someone with direct experience of poverty. We are heartened to see that the issues raised in Naomi’s meetings with those with experience of poverty, have formed the backbone of this report. Her report shows that people in poverty are part of the solution, not the problem.”
Marie-Therese, a member of the Poverty Truth Commission’s Mutual Mentoring Scheme said: “Naomi is very in touch with the actual truth behind poverty. She knows the real crux of the matters from her hands on experience and from actively seeking out and listening to groups who are not heard. She always asked the right questions and wanted to learn more.”
The full report is available at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/01/1984