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As well as bringing in an additional 600 free hours of childcare for all three- and four-year-olds, the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 requires all local authorities to consult parents about their childcare needs. This is a fantastic opportunity to see what parents need, across the country, and to plan accordingly. So, the consultations need to ask the right questions in the right ways and also reach the right people.
Although the requirement to consult did not come into force until 1 August 2014, PAS was aware that many Scottish local authorities had decided to do so before they had to. PAS was interested to see who and how local authorities had decided to consult, and whether this enabled them to get a comprehensive picture of what parents need in their area: all had taken a different approach to the consultation and there was scope to learn from the experience.
For many parents, childcare represents a substantial barrier to getting and keeping jobs, and lack of flexibility in childcare hours can be particularly problematic. There are certain groups of parents, such as families affected by disability and black and minority ethnic parents, who face specific difficulties in finding suitable childcare. The statutory guidance on Part VI of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 mentions these parents, and requires local authorities to actively find out their views and needs. The consultations need to reach parents who cannot find the model of childcare they need, so that future provision is better designed.
This review of local authority consultations with parents was undertaken to ensure that all parents were being asked their views, and that hard to reach groups, in particular, were included.
We hope that by sharing the results, local authorities can learn from what others have done, and use this to inform future consultations with parents about childcare needs.
Other articles published in our Sept 2015 newsletter:
Other articles about childcare: