Two announcements today kind of sum up the fairness and common decency of the SNP as opposed to the almost psychopathic callousness of the Tories – the living wage for childcare staff and a scheme to boost learning and development opportunities as the Tories reveal themselves as the party of child poverty.
The current 600 hours of free early learning care is to be increased to 1 140 hours this year. At the moment, not all of those delivering the service, in particular those who are working in private nurseries, receive the living wage of £8.25 per hour but only the minimum wage of £7.20 per hour. By the end of this parliament all workers will receive the living wage.
The First Minister said:
‘I am proud of the steps our government has already taken to extend payment of the Living Wage. We have led by example in the public sector. And we have led a movement of businesses who see the benefits, not just for their staff but for their own bottom line. I can confirm today that we intend to apply that approach to our expansion of childcare. In public sector nurseries, staff already receive the living wage. But there are currently around 1,000 private nurseries helping to deliver our free childcare policy and currently around 80% of the childcare staff who work in them don’t earn the living wage. That’s around 8000 people in total.’
Also announced today, the second initiative is increased support for care leavers who are struggling to access education or job opportunities because of the ground they have lost on their peers during the time they were full-time carers. What more deserving group could there be? The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work said:
‘Recent data shows that we have made significant progress in tackling youth unemployment and Scotland currently has the second lowest youth unemployment rate in Europe, after Germany, with levels at the lowest rate since records began. By supporting more young care leavers to access employment, training and education opportunities and close the attainment gap with their peers, we are sending a clear signal that we are determined to go further.’
Meanwhile the Tories are busy confirming their status as the party of child poverty:
‘Figures show that more than 14 million people in the UK now live in relative poverty. This is the highest since 1996/97. And it’s a million more than when the Conservatives took power in 2010. The number of children living in poverty has also risen. It rose by 400,000 from 2010/11 to 2015/16 meaning there are now four million children living in poverty.’
According to BBC Scotland, it’s: ‘More than a quarter of children in Scotland were living in relative poverty after housing costs in 2015-2016, according to government figures. It marks what charities described as a “devastating” rise of 4% from the previous year.’
Across the UK as a whole it’s even higher at: ‘About 100,000 children fell into relative poverty in 2015-16, a year on year increase of one percentage point, according to household data published by the government on Thursday. About 4 million, or around 30%, are now classed as poor.’
I know it’s nothing to brag about but at least it’s something and might suggest some achievement by the Scottish Government. I know I’ve quoted this evidence before:
‘There is much that the Scottish Government is doing to reduce the impact of poverty and inequality and there is much in Scotland that can be celebrated and learned from. The devolution of welfare powers should not obscure the continuing role of that Westminster plays in determining benefit spending in Scotland. Welfare claimants in Scotland have lost large sums already, and are set to lose further large sums. The devolution of welfare powers will not, in itself, alter this stark reality.’
Remember, the UK is the 5th biggest economy in the world. There’s money to solve this but it’s going into other pockets and it might be getting worse:
‘These figures are grim but, according to independent experts at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the outlook for the next few years is bleaker. Most worrying of all is that the Government seems to be in a state of denial. Last week’s Budget failed to mention poverty even once.’