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Out of School Childcare Plays a Vital Part in Tackling Poverty

On Monday 24th October Irene's letter to The Herald was published:

OUT-OF-SCHOOL CHILDCARE PLAYS A VITAL PART IN TACKLING POVERTY

We welcome the remarks by the Scottish Government's anti-poverty adviser, Naomi Eisenstadt (photo) ('SNP adviser raises doubts on party's plans for childcare', The Herald, October 20) on the issue of the exclusion of out of school childcare from the Scottish Government's flagship expansion of the early learning and childcare.

Out of school care is regulated, registered and good quality childcare provided through breakfast clubs, after school clubs and holiday clubs for school-age children.

This type of childcare has been around in Scotland since the 1980s and indeed was first set up to alleviate poverty in disadvantaged communities.

Now there are nearly 1,000 such services providing out of school care to more than 50,000 children in Scotland, and they are doing so with very little support politically or financially.

Yet they meet similar standards and staff qualification requirements as early learning and childcare, as it should be, for quality of the care, play and learning services provided are crucial for children's wellbeing.

A child in a full-time all-year round after school and holiday service could spend 1,170 hours a year in the service.

Enabling parents to work is the most obvious way in which out of school care helps ameliorate the effects of disadvantage, but studies have also shown that participation in out of school care clubs and activities helps disadvantaged children, in particular, close the attainment gap in literacy and numeracy.

Low-cost breakfast club provision and holiday clubs which also provide lunches, also support families experiencing disadvantage. Children tell us that opportunities to play, to make friends and spend time with friends are what they love the most about out of school holiday care.

They also felt that the staff cared about them, listened to them and they could tell staff if they had a problem or worry.

'Childcare' is not only pre-fives; such needs do not end at age five but go on well through primary school years, or later if a child has a disability.

The expansion of early learning and childcare might involve out of school care services in offering families integrated provision, where if you have children of different ages they are all attending the same service, and this is not new, again many early learning and childcare centres combine to offer out of school care too.

The role of out of school care in addressing poverty is clear and there are many other advantages to children and families in terms of social inclusion in the community, There is a huge, welcome investment in expansion of early learning and childcare, but we also ask that out of school care is not left behind with much focus on expansion.

We are grateful that the anti-poverty adviser recognises the value and need for this type of childcare support for families and hope that her views are incorporated into the potential new national policy for out of school care we have been calling for, and working on, for some time, with the Scottish Government.

Irene Audain, CEO, SOSCN

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