The difficulties of childcare for working parents

In his blog for STV News, ANAS SARWAR MP discussed the latest employment statistics and childcare difficulties for Scottish families.


The latest employment statistics have shown that unemployment continues to be the biggest problem facing our country and all political parties must be focused on helping get people back into work.

But while we rightly focus on creating the jobs our communities badly need, we must also make sure that when people have the opportunity to work, that they can take it.

And one of the biggest issues facing parents when trying to re-enter the workforce is childcare.

It was disappointing to see a recent survey that showed that Scottish families are being left behind the rest of the United Kingdom when it comes to childcare provision.

Affordable and practical childcare is vitally important to many Scottish families. While the cost of childcare has been rising sharply in recent years, wages and family income has been frozen or in many cases reduced.

The survey found that childcare costs in Scotland are the highest in the UK and that a third of families living on less than £12,000 per year had gone into debt due to care costs.

While English and Welsh children aged three and four are entitled to receive 15 hours of free nursery education for up to 38 weeks of the year; in Scotland the SNP government has postponed implementing a similar agreement, to the detriment of families.

When in power the last Labour Government did much to address this issue, doubling the number of childcare places and raising the level of Tax Credits to cover 80% of childcare costs.

This helped thousand of parents take the step back into work, but progress in Scotland has stalled under the current Scottish Government.

This weekend I was delighted to support the Labour Party’s announcement that childcare will be an “early priority” in future elections.

Labour shadow ministers will now look to successful childcare systems in other countries to make sure that our welfare system is serving families and children.

Countries such as Denmark, where childcare is free to low income families and Norway, where parents can access childcare from birth to age five at low cost. Both countries now have 10% more woman in work than the United Kingdom.

Women are often the victims of poor childcare provision. According to Aviva, more than 30,000 women have had to give up jobs due to the high costs of childcare and other costs.

This is not just damaging for families, but also for our economy.

Women and parents back in work pay tax, receive fewer benefits and often use their wages to help create the demand that has been so lacking in our economy.

With latest unemployment statistics showing that 400 women are losing their jobs every day and female unemployment is at its highest level for 17 years; we must do everything we can to make it easier for families to re-enter the workforce.

Investing in childcare is investing in our country’s economy. It’s proven to be best for children, families and for the economy. Both the SNP and the Tory-led Government simply must do more.

Anas Sarwar is the MP for Glasgow Central and Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party. News and information on Anas can be found at Follow him on Twitter: @AnasSarwar

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52 thoughts on “The difficulties of childcare for working parents

  1. You conveniently forgot to mention that Denmark and Norway have total control of their countrys income and revenues, unlike Scotland which has to balance a grant which is set by Westminster. It kind of limits the type of services you would like to do for the Scottish people does’nt, perhaps being incontrol of our own resources would make a difference. Perhaps it would help make a fairer and better social system for the working mithers of this Scotland.

    As myself and my brother was raised by a single working mither and I know exactly how hard it was, I will support independence for this country because then it will be ourselves who will decide how much we spend on childcare, and not having it decided by Westminster’s handouts.

    Who do you think would be better at setting Scotlands prioritys for working parents, ourselves or Westminster.

  2. Are you suggesting that the Scottish government be given control to set working tax credit levels in Scotland ?

    These doubling of nursery places that the Labour party managed was fine, but what did you cut to achieve this or where you able to simply make this decision because you had full control of your own finances and unlike the present SNP administration did not have a limited budget set by a Westminster government that has cut a huge portion from the Scottish budget.

    So if Scotland has full control of it’s own finances it means that the Scottish government can make the kind of decisions that you are demanding, if we continue to get a limited budget set by Westminster then we will continue to have limited choices.

    So Anas, the answer to you problem is simple….Vote YES in the referendum !!!

  3. If you are going to look at successsful childcare systems in other countries you will see that the bulk of the subsidy goes directly to providers. The problem in the UK is that the bulk of the subsidy goes through tax credits and vouchers and then the market is supposed to provide the best result. But obviously it doesn’t.

    In my view it would be worth looking at simply taking the money which is currently chanelled through tax credits and vouchers and giving it to local authorities to use to provide childcare. They wouldn’t necessarily provide it directly but if they were in charge of it you would have better quality control as well as beimg able to ensure that access and costs were less variable.

  4. Patrick, is that confirmation that we will have working families tax credit in an independent scotland? Any idea what level that will be at? Or even, how will it be administered?

    Or are these things we should add to the list of unanswered questions of what an independent Scotland would look like. The list is getting pretty long now.

    1. Well if Labour seriously wants to learn from countries like Sweden you wouldn’t be arguing to keep on funding childcare through tax credits and a private market so maybe you ought to give some serious thought to that instead of just having a pop at the SNP.

      Is this an actual debate or not?

    2. Ah good “spacecadet” I take it from your reply to Patrick you will be able to present labours/unionist case for being in the union, so pray tell us what amazing benefits are there for remaining within this governmential system, from which we have to continue to run our country on a grant, set by a Westminster Government, which we in Scotland did not vote for !!
      Please enlighten us with your wisdom, we have been waiting for a long long time.

      1. The generally accepted convention is that if you want to make change in this country through a referendum, then you outline your case in detail and put it to the country.

        Generally speaking the “No” side of any campaign is arguing to leave things as they are, therefore they have to explain less as we are living within the current system and people know what that is.

        However just saying you want things to be different without much in the way of detail is just a sloppy argument.

        1. nice try spacecadet, but oh so wrong !

          Every unionist party has said that it intends presenting the Scottish voters with their ‘positive case for the union’ so I’m afraid your out of touch with your own party leaders.

          Up ’til now the unionist parties have singularly failed to present this ‘so called’ positive case for staying in the union, but that’s more to do with the fact that their simply isn’t a credible case, rather than any political protocol.

          1. What is it about devolution that is so bad? None of the “unionist” parties are suggesting going backwards and some are suggesting extending powers to the Scottish Parliament, which of course we know is actually what the SNP want.

        2. Well “spacecadet” you certainly have got into the “explain less” situation of all the unionist parties. So therefore why is your man complaining about childcare if “you are arguing to leave things as they are” ???

        3. That’s the answer I expected.

          So basically, Scottish children and Scottish women are suffering as pointed out by Anas Sarwar.

          Spacecadet says the Referendum No vote is a vote for this to continue.

          Is there a more conclusive arguement for voting yes? I don’t think so.

        4. Spaced…..So your argument is for the status quo!
          In other words THIS is as good as the Scotttish people should get….Oh, apart from you would also put up the council tax…..!

          Good God…with that argument im so undecided that i might actually vote for continued london rule 🙂

          1. The problem with all of your comments is that you have followed the convention of your “glorious” leader and failed to tell us what an independent Scotland would look like. This is your biggest weakness.

            Telling people to vote yes to something and then we will work out the detail later is not going to work. The people of Scotland should not have their intelligence insulted in this way.

            You need to have a better answer on Swinney’s “fiscal levers”.
            Your current plan is not much different to the Status Quo with the Bank of England setting monetary policy on Sterling.

            You need a clear answer on Europe. Can I suggest getting a guarantee from Germany maybe, after all they are running the show and will ultimately decide on an independent Scotland’s future in the EU.

            You need to answer questions on energy security, what will provide the future core load as we have many ageing power stations. The hugely expensive renewables programme will possibly never recoup its costs.

            There are so many more detailed questions we need answers to but these are pretty much 3 big ones. Any answers?

  5. What do Norway and Denmark have in common but Scotland doesn’t?

    The answer of course is that they are independent countries who control their own resources, come to their own decisions and determine their own national priorities.

    So when Anas Sarwar calls for greater investment in our country’s economy which country is he really talking about?

    1. They also have different taxation levels from the UK. Tax on individuals and corporations is higher across the board there.

      Alex Salmond has said he wants to cut corporation tax and the SNP gave up the current parliament’s tax varying power indicating they have no with to consider raising taxes in Scotland.

      1. Denmark Corp Tax: 25%

        Norway Corp Tax: 28%

        UK Corp Tax: 25%

        Denmark Highest Rate of Personal Tax: 55.4%

        Norway Highest Rate of Personal Tax: 47.8%

        UK Highest rate of Personal Tax: 50%

        The differences in taxation levels are negligible. The differences in social and economic priorities are huge.

        The reason is quite simple. Norway and Denmark are historically social democratic countries. The UK in contrast has seen the adandonment of social democracy by both Labour and the Lib Dems in favour of Tory free-market thinking in both the private and public sectors.

        The SNP is the only social democratic party left in these isles. The only party that can make a real difference to ordinary people’s lives in Scotland.

        1. Mac

          You for got to add in to the UK total the income tax by another name, national insurance.

          The real question is, with national insurance added in is the UK the highest taxed place in Europe?

          1. Both Norway and Denmark have employee and employeer tax contributions as well. It is not the fiscal regime that dictates policies in those countries. It is the political culture of both Norway and Denmark that determine both social and economic policies.

            If Scotland was an independent country it would a social democratic one. By contrast the UK is a state where ugly capitalism remains supreme, and which is supported by a British Labour party who rejected social democracy 20 years ago.

        2. For a minute there I thought you said the SNP were social democrats. Really, plans to cut corporation tax are showing that side of them are they? LOL.

        3. “The SNP is the only social democratic party left in these isles.”

          You are joking, aren’t you?

          How can a party that encourages division, passes on cuts deeper and faster than the Tories, slashes a social housing benefit and oversees a largest growth in youth unemployment we’ve see in a generation claim to be “social democratic”?
          How is the SNP’s policy to cut corperation tax be seen as “social democratic?”

          Nationalism is fundamentally a right-wing belief – you create differences and grievences and balme it on others – in this case the English or as they say “Westminster” and “London”. Anyone who disagrees with you is “anti-scottish”. That’s the ugly truth of the matter.

          The amazing thing about the SNP is they’ve hood-winked many social-democrats into beliving that they are voting for a progressive party.

      2. Tax is higher in Norway, but so is income. It all balances out. Far better than it balances out here, let’s be honest. They actually recieve a living wage in some Scandinavian countries – it would be a radical notion in the UK, I know, but they consider it normal up there. They didn’t even need to have a global empire or the world’s fourth largest military budget to achieve it either. Weird eh?

  6. Families in Scotland have no control over the tax credit level which is the key lever to helping parents of young children back into the workforce by providing funding for child care. The conservative led Westminster Govt – your allies in the Scottish constitutional debate – are the ones who control that level and the ones responsible for reducing it. It isn’t likely they will consider restoring or indeed increasing tax credit levels anytime soon so working parents in Scotland face the bleak prospect of ongoing struggle with child care costs. Don’t forget the sector also employs many women as well who need better professional status and renumeration for doing a vitally important early years job. Do your allies in the Scottish constitutional debate care what happens to these families and workers as they decimate early years provision ? How will Scottish families be helped out of poverty if – as seems quite likely – the Conservatives get back in in 2016 and possibly with an increased majority ? Instead of taking issue with the SNP led Scottish Govt you should take your argument to London and the westminster administration. Of course all you can do down there is simply oppose cuts to the level of tax credit whereas an independent or devo max Scotland would have the financial powers to actually do something about it.

  7. Scotland has to work within a block grant from London – a system you support. If you think more should be spent on childcare by the government, please tell us:

    What other service do you wish to cut?
    Or, do you want to increase income tax?
    Or do you now support giving the scottish parliament real financial powers?

    If none of the above, you are trying to con people.

    1. Unfreeze council tax and raise taxes in a fairer, more progressive fashion. Simple really.

      1. Any sentence that includes the words Council Tax and fair makes no sense to me under the current system. The system needs dismantled and completely re-designed to actually make it fair. Right now it is grossly unfair so it is anything but “simple” to just hammer householders by raising Council Tax while the vast majority pay nothing towards services.

        Too many Parties, including Labour, appear unwilling to end the link between Council Tax and the value of a property. The truth is there is no connection between property value and services funded by Council Tax. Another truth is that it isn’t just householders who use services: we all do yet only a householder pays based on the value of their property. That is madness.

        Council Tax should be based on income alone and we should all contribute something. I think that is perfectly fair. I find it bizarre that Labour especially remain obsessed with property value in relation to Council Tax. It is an illogical connection and until we abandon it no progress will be made.

      2. What, put up the unfair council tax to fund childcare? Are you seriously proposing that?

        So if a couple choose to have a smaller family so they can afford more in life, like a bigger house, you think they should pay more tax to help with the childcare costs of others who chose to have more children and live in a smaller house?


          1. You think that I am a Tory for thinking the council tax is unfair? Do you not recall that the Tories introduced it. It is Labour that is backing the Tories in supporting the Tory Council Tax.

          2. Equally nice to know there are some Labour supporters here too. You’re the first one I’ve seen since regularly reading this site.

            Fifteen years ago the Tories were wiped out of Scotland. That should have been a good thing. Labour should have stepped up and dominated Scottish politics and continued to fight for the people of Scotland, but Labour thought the battle was won and the fighting was over and it abandoned Scotlands folk to concentrate on winning London. Now Labour here is on it’s knees, like the Tories were fifteen years ago. We’ll not see them wiped out the way the Tories were, PR will prevent that, but they are spent force in Scotland. And it’s just whatthey deserve too. Shame.

          3. Nice to know there is still a Blair&Brown Nulabour’ types left in Scotland.

            Funny I thought they were all denying they ever joined Nulabour!!!

        1. I suppose that couple who want a big house etc will still expect a state pension when they retire?

          Q, Who is going to pay for that?
          A, The children who they argued should not be born

          Idiotic statement!

      3. well that might be a reasonable political arguament for the labour party to put to the Scottish voter spacecadet, only the labour party in Stirling have just voted to ‘CUT’ council tax, even though it will result in a cut to services in Stirling.
        Johann lamont has made no comment about this as has no other labour party
        MSP or MP, so they are clearly not unhappy with this position.

        So I’m afraid you are yet again out of touch with the labour party mate.

        Why don’t you have a good long think about it spacecadet and think about what party in Scotland trully reflects your dreams and desires for the future of Scotland… if you do this you will no doubt follow the thousands of ex-labour people who have joined the growing ranks of SNP voters/supporters.

        Think about it 🙂

  8. I don’t actually think it is the job of the taxpayer to provide free child-care. In recent years we’ve had working family tax credits which have increased household income for certain families by significant amounts. (The system for Tax Credits was also vulnerable when it came to fraud.) I do not see why they should also get free child-care. We can only fund so much and these are not the only priorities. There are other groups struggling too.

    1. Well actually it is if the taxpayer is serious about surviving the recession, never mind growing the economy and reducing poverty etc. We need people in work and paying tax in order to fund all the other services you are talking about.

  9. I don’t think people can have working families tax credits and also free childcare. It is totally unfair to expect both. Furthermore the WFTC system was shambolic and the amount lost to the taxpayer was absolutely disgraceful. Fraud levels were also shocking.

    It is all very well for you to say they will pay tax: perhaps they will but it will be paid straight back to them by providing free childcare for them and I don’t think that’s reasonable.

    Low income isn’t something only families live with. Many groups are struggling to cope with rising food prices, increasing travel costs to get to work, heating costs and the rest. Some within those groups have one low income to work with and that is very tough going too. We are all suffering.

    Young people most of all are having the worst time of it with no hope, no light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t think it is right to single out one group and allocate vast sums to their welfare while others are left to get on with it. For young people it isn’t a case of sinking or swimming. Many are trying desperately to swim but as we all know you can only do that for so long and the body gets tired leaving the swimmer unable to avoid going under. They need opportunities. They, more than anyone, need jobs. They do not deserve to be sent to work for free within large organisations and exploited beyond belief as they work alongside others who have the privilege of being paid while they only get a paltry amount in benefits. They do not deserve to be labelled idlers or challenged to go and scrape ice off pavements during cold spells simply because they don’t have a job through no fault of their own.

  10. spacecadet

    I note the Tories with support from Labour CUTTING the council tax in Stirling.

    Unlike the council tax freeze which John Swinney makes up the difference by giving the councils extra money the Torylabour alliance in Stirling have just cut Stirling council’s funding and there is no extra funds from government.
    Now how does Stirling provide better and extra services?
    They obviously think the people of Stirling are daft.
    They are not. Labour will take the tanking in Stirling it deserves in May.
    It is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between stone dead Tories and brain dead Labour in Scotland

    1. That’s strange, I distinctly remember Swinney cutting the settlement for local govt. So not only do we have a council tax freeze but also a budget reduction. That’s a cut in my eyes.

      1. Spacecadet,

        You blame Swinney for cuts. Don’t you realise that Westminster has cut Scotland’s budget so the Scottish government has no choice but to cut spending? Why do you not fight for full fiscal autonomy so that the Scottish government will be fully accountable for its spending, or cutting decisions?

      2. Which brings us back round to the first comments on here.

        You do remember the state of the UK Government finances left by the previous Labour regime don’t you.

          1. I’m sure if they were corrupt, there would be as many bankers in prison as MPs.

            Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the roll of the FSA. This is a link to their mission statement : (by the way, the FSA was set up by a Mr G Brown MP)

            I’m especially interested in the part where it states

            “our objectives will require us to protect consumers by ensuring that firms are competent and financially sound,”

            and more especially –

            “We would score an economic own goal were we to regulate the innovative capacities of the cities of London and Edinburgh out of existence”

  11. spacecadet, it would be a good question to ask me IF I was the deputy leader of the Scottish Government, but alas……. 🙂

    If you look at my post again however, you will notice that I wasn’t talking about what would happen in an ‘Independent Scotland’ but was asking Anas if he was advocating that the devolved Scottish government should now have the powers to set the ‘working persons tax credit’ ie more powers.
    The main reason I was making Anas this was because it is all very well telling readers on labourhame what the last labour government did, when he fine well knows that the Scottish government can’t do these things because under the present set up we don’t have the powers.

  12. Not so. Against the backround of cuts from Westminster to the Scottish block grant Mr Swinney increased the budget percentage of it to local government.
    They all got an increase in simple terms but measured against inflation it is an actual decrease in real value. Perhaps you can explaiin how Mr Swinney can invent money he doesn’t have to hand out – though, of course that was what the last Laboiur Governement did which is why we are in deep trouble at the moment.
    However my point stands. For over a year now Labour has been calling for a RISE in the Council Tax.
    In Stirling in an unholy alliance with the Tories it has just cut the money available to the council by voting to CUT the Council tax. This is economic idiocy and infantile party political point scoring which is an insult to the intelligence of any well infromed voter in ther Stirling area.

    EVERY council in Scotland voted in support of John Swinney’s freezing of the council tax. He then gave them extra funds to help make up for this. What extra funds is Stirling council expecting – or how many workers will lose their jobs because of the activities of Stirling labour.

    Roll on May.

  13. Never mind! You had Kaye Adams and BBC Scotland news doing your bidding all this morning. You can always rely on the good old BBC to get your news across. I think the rest of us will have to wait until we have an Independent broadcasting organisation?

  14. Instead of blaming Westminster for everything, perhaps the SG could have spent some money more wisely rather than on a new shiny bridge.

    I know of two nurseries near here which have closed because parents simply cannot afford the fees.

  15. Yes,indeed. A cut in real terms in the money Mr Swinney had to give out due to the total shambles of public finances after many years of Labour Government.

    I think I can say with some certainty that John Swinney doesn’t distibute money he doesn’t have, which is a pleasant and sensible change from previous behaviour.
    The Labour Party position as I understand it for the last couple of years has been to abolish the Council Tax freeze and let council raise the level of council tax..Fair enough (if you can sell it as a policy) It would not involve the Finance Secreary giving away money he doesn’t have.

    Why then did Labour gang up with the Tories in Stirling to vote a reduction in Council Tax?
    I don’t suppose I will get an answer.

  16. spacecadet says:
    February 26, 2012 at 9:56 am

    “Generally speaking the “No” side of any campaign is arguing to leave things as they are, therefore they have to explain less as we are living within the current system and people know what that is.”
    Did the McCrone report fall under the category of ” leave things as they are” or, as unionists “they have to explain less”?

  17. Hello Hello, is anyone home ?
    Just a short note to let you know some people have came out with a Devo-plus option for the referendum, it appears to be being championed by unionist politician’s.
    So are you for it, or are you not. ??? Is it going to be the offical lab-con-dem policy.

  18. The McCrone Report came under the category of “Holy shit,we’d better not let our people see this or they’ll know we are telling them lies”

    Every Labour person I meet nowadays I ask them to justify the hiding of the McCrone Report from the Scottish people and so far they have all said they didn’t know anything about it. Those I have talked to now certainly know about it and know their leaders were deliberately lying to Scotland. It certainly has done nothing to reverse the deep gloom they are mostly on.
    It’s about time the Labour Prty in Scotland realised they are actually in a worse condition than the Tories in Scotland. The Tories, which is not a political movement at all but mererly a collection individuals which takes pragmatic self serving position in all circumstances, will survive and quickly re-assert in an independent Scotland. I suspect many are already resigned for independence and making sure they are well positioned for it. The Labour Party however is (or was) built on a set of principles but now has become an organisation which is dominated by self seekers and sees the assumption of political power as its main raison d’etre. The principles have been mainly jettisoned.
    Oh, we get all the old cliches on here but none of the actions.
    The SNP is not beating Labour. It is replacing Labour in Scotland. I believe the SNP already has a number of transfers lined up (and not only in Labour ranks)but they are staying where they are at the moment

  19. Hello again, sorry it appears that devo-plus is not for the referendum, instead it is to be a “JAM TOMORROW” offer. If you vote no, they hope to be able to offer you devo-max or part of it, ‘maybe, it could happen, if you wish upon a star!!!’.
    Is that going to be offical lab-con-dem policy.

  20. Oh Goody, More jam from the unionists…..but only if we are good and vote ‘NO’ in the referendum !

    They wouldn’t lie to us would they ?

    I mean, if they say they will do something, they will do it won’t they ???

    Politicians tell the truth don’t they ?


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