New research from Citizens Advice Scotland has found that the high cost of childcare in Scotland is pushing families into poverty. The report says that more needs to be done to reduce childcare costs and while the Scottish Government has increased the number of hours of free childcare for families, which is welcome, remaining costs are prohibitive, especially for those who work full-time or are on zero hours contracts.

The Scottish Government has promised 600 hours of free childcare for children aged 3 or over and for some of the country’s most disadvantaged 2 year olds, however the report points out that this only covers 6 months of the year at 25 hours a week.

Families pay, on average, £5,000 per year on childcare, however, costs vary widely across the country and availability is a problem, especially in rural areas. The unpredictability of zero-hours contracts makes arranging childcare especially difficult and high costs mean that some parents are deterred from taking up employment. Families spend around 27% of their income on childcare compared to an average of just 12%in other OECD countries.

The report calls for the Scottish Government to work with local authorities to ensure that there is adequate provision of affordable childcare in their areas and to consider making childcare a statutory right. It also contains a number of other recommendations, including a proposal for a statutory right for those on zero-hour contracts to request guaranteed hours of work, without fear of dismissal.

Source: Citizens Advice Scotland report Unaffordable and Unavailable: Scotland’s record on childcare exposed