The Scottish Government is providing an extra £50 million to councils in 2014/15 for more free and flexible nursery care.
The Children and Young People Bill, which will be debated in Parliament today, will save parents of three and four year olds and the most vulnerable two year olds up to £700 a year, by providing more free time in nursery.
Councils will also have to ask parents about the nursery care they want for their child and offer a choice – for example two full days instead of a few hours every day – to help parents who want to return to work.
Minister for Children Aileen Campbell said:
“The £50.8 million we are giving councils will pay for more nursery care for local children, including all three and four year olds and the most vulnerable two year olds. We are working hard to help families and this will save parents up to £700 per child per year while the UK Government takes away from families, cutting their benefits by on average £700.
“This saving will help families manage household costs without compromising the quality of care their children receive or forcing parents to make difficult choices about whether they can afford nursery or other necessities.”
“By next year, all councils must ask parents what they want and offer more choice. Together with the extra hours, this could mean two full days of nursery a week instead of a few hours a morning or afternoon – giving Mums, in particular, more choices and supporting more women back into work or training.
“This is the best nursery care ever given to Scottish families. We are doing a great deal with the powers we have, but we want to do more. We want to have a childcare system among the best in Europe. The Bill is a first step towards this, but while the UK Government remains in control of tax and welfare, we will always be fighting the impact of decisions taken elsewhere.
“That is why we have also asked the Council of Economic Advisers to consider how we can use the powers of an independent Scotland to give an even better deal for children, parents and our economic future.”
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill increases the amount of free nursery for three and four year olds and for two year olds who are looked after or have a kinship care order from 475 to 600 hours a year.
This funding comes from the total package of £190 million to support the Children and Young People Bill announced by the First Minister in September.