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Yousaf must deliver on free childcare pledge, says anti-poverty charity

SCOTTISH First Minister Humza Yousaf must make good on his pledge to expand free childcare places to “poverty proof” early years in Scotland, a charity has said.

Mr Yousaf made the pledge to offer free childcare to under-threes more than a year ago as part of his campaign to win the SNP leadership.

Now the Joseph Rowantree Foundation (JRF) has produced a report making its case for the policy — and demanded delivery.

Surveying 500 parents, the anti-poverty charity found that 82 per cent struggled with high childcare costs, while 65 per cent said more free provision would enable them to take on paid work.

Modelling boosting provision to include 25 hours per week for all one and two-year-olds — 35 hours for all three and four-year-olds — at a cost of around £2 billion, the report concludes it would have an immediate impact on low-income families, potentially cutting poverty by 2.9 per cent by 2030.

JRF’s Jack Evans commented: “A lack of affordable options is a significant barrier to low-income parents escaping poverty.

“The cost of childcare must not lock people in financial insecurity, closing the door to the labour market.

“By reducing early years childcare costs, we can dramatically increase household disposable income, with the biggest impact seen for low-income families.

“We can be under no illusions about the scale of reform needed.

“Holding the cost of the childcare that parents want alongside the state of public finance is daunting.

“Yet Scottish government and politicians of all parties must meet the challenge head on, otherwise families on low incomes will be left behind.

“If the cost of universal expansion is a barrier then we need a debate about how we knock it down.”

The Scottish government was contacted for comment.

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