Bring back 1140 hours in East Dunbartonshire!

Bring back 1140 hours in East Dunbartonshire!

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Fiona Hayes started this petition to East Dunbartonshire Council

Since 2014, parents of nursery aged children in Scotland have been promised 1140 hours of funded childcare by August 2020, a substantial and financially liberating increase from the existing 600 hours.  

During March 2020, in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, the Scottish Government announced the removal of the statutory implementation date, in effect giving local authorities new discretion to determine if they wish to proceed as planned.  

This has caused a hugely inequitable situation in Scotland - a postcode lottery - whereby families in some areas of the country are receiving a financial benefit measured in thousands of pounds, which is being withheld from others.  

On Thursday the 2nd of July, parents began to receive letters to announce the delay of 1140 hours in East Dunbartonshire for at least the 2020/21 academic year, due to the non-completion of construction on three local authority early years centres in Bearsden, Milngavie and Kirkintilloch.

East Dunbartonshire Council is instead offering a revised 750 hours pattern in all centres, except for a handful of ‘pilot’ centres which will continue to receive 1140 hours of care. This generates a postcode lottery not just throughout Scotland, but within the local authority itself. Why are the named centres better equipped to conduct this pilot than others? 

At this point no further information is available to parents on the status of their nursery applications and whether or not they will receive the 750 hours of care at all. These communications are due to be shared with parents mid-July - just one month before children are set to start the new nursery term.

We, the undersigned, wish to put on record in the strongest terms our dissatisfaction with how this matter has been handled.  

This is a subject of the utmost importance to parents not just on a financial level, but in terms of what is best for our children and their development.  

For its seemingly open-ended delay, to have been communicated in this manner is completely unacceptable and has caused substantial worry and distress for parents. 

With the people of East Dunbartonshire looking ahead to how they can ‘get back to work’, the approach taken by East Dunbartonshire Council creates significant barriers to its residents being able to do so. 

This causes even more strain on families, when so many have already been financially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

We call upon East Dunbartonshire Council to provide an explanation on where the funding which was supposed to be spent on upping childcare provision for this term shall be allocated? Surely savings from such a drastic u-turn in the provision of extra hours could be allocated to supporting children and families?

A number of other local authorities are proceeding to roll out 1140 hours safely and as planned, subject to Covid-19 recovery restrictions. These local authorities cite their pride in being able to do so and their preparedness in infrastructure, recruitment and procedures.  Where is East Dunbartonshire Council’s pride in delivering for its residents?  

Despite the impending implementation date being only a matter of months away at the point when Covid-19 struck, were East Dunbartonshire not as prepared as these other authorities?  While parents across the country have had to stretch resources and drastically revise their childcare plans throughout lockdown (many at the cost of household income and family mental wellbeing), the message being sent is that our local authority is unable to put the same amount of resourcefulness into its planning for early years children and families.

The people of East Dunbartonshire deserve a more detailed explanation, which we trust will be forthcoming.

Most importantly, we respectfully request that East Dunbartonshire Council review this decision.  It is a matter of fact that many of the nursery and ELC settings in East Dunbartonshire are ready to deliver 1140 hours.  

In the event it is ultimately decided that 1140 hours is not realistically achievable, surely there is scope for at least enhanced provision - some form of compromise and flexibility in the hours that can be delivered or the services which can be provided for children under 5.

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At 2,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!