‘Nursery hours all but useless to local working parents’

Nursery hours offered by councils are all but useless to working families, campaigners claimed.

Only 3% of council-run centres in Tayside and Fife provide sufficient hours to allow parents to work full-time, according to research from Fair Funding For Our Kids.

Carolyn Lochhead, parent volunteer at the group, said the findings show the system is “not set up for working parents”, who are the “very people the Scottish Government says it wants to help”.

She added: “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.”

Freedom of information requests revealed that of the 229 council nurseries in Tayside and Fife, just seven are open 8am-6pm or longer.

Not one council-run nursery in Angus, Dundee or Perth and Kinross offers hours to cover an entire working day, figures show.

The SNP government has pledged to increase state-funded nursery places from 600 hours to 1,140 for three and four-year-old kids, and eligible two-year-old youngsters by August 2020.

However, an Accounts Commission report found: “There are significant risks that councils will not be able to expand funded early learning and childcare (ELC) to 1,140 hours by 2020.”

A Dundee City Council spokeswoman said: “We will listen to families to try to ensure the expansion of early learning and childcare entitlement supports them to access work, training or study, and that services are provided to support them as the child’s first educator.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the childcare expansion plans will save families £4,500 a year, but admitted flexibility needs to be improved.

Scottish Labour’s Iain Gray said: “The SNP obsession with the total number of hours available, rather than whether those hours are accessible to families, simply is not working.”