Childcare for key workers could end before schools return

Education Secretary John Swinney said local authorities are welcome to set their own end dates.

The Scottish Government is to end the requirement for councils to provide “critical childcare” for key workers the week before schools return, it has emerged.

Education Secretary John Swinney said local authorities are welcome to set their own end dates but they will not need to run the schemes from the week commencing Monday August 3.

But with schools not due to return until August 11, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Beatrice Wishart branded the move “short-sighted”.

She said: “It means that nurses, doctors and other key workers will need to find alternative childcare at relatively short notice and just for one week.

“Surely it would have been wiser to extend it for just one more week so there could be a smooth transition for the return to school?”

The Education Secretary revealed plans to end the childcare provision for key workers in answer to a written parliamentary question.

He stressed the provision of childcare to key workers had been “at the heart of keeping Scotland going during lockdown”, saying that without this

“Scotland could not have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic in the way we did”.

Swinney said: “I am enormously grateful for the national effort to care for these children.”

But he added: “As formal and informal childcare options have opened up and schools prepare to reopen, we can now wind down this critical childcare provision.”

Swinney said the Scottish Government has now agreed with the local government body Cosla that “local authorities will no longer be required to provide critical childcare from the week commencing August 3”.

Adding that councils could set their own end date for key worker childcare schemes after August 3, he said: “I anticipate there will be period of time where local authorities will transition to accommodate the start of school.”