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Yousaf to announce ‘package’ of childcare measures

Yousaf to announce ‘package’ of childcare measures

Scotland’s First Minister will use his first Programme for Government to announce a “package” of childcare measures.

The announcement will come as Humza Yousaf sets out his Government’s legislative agenda for the next parliamentary year on Tuesday.

Speaking to journalists on a visit to a school and nursery in Dundee ahead of the speech in Holyrood, Mr Yousaf said the announcement would help tackle poverty and boost the economy by bringing people back into the workforce.

The announcement, he said, would include support for breakfast and after school clubs, potential further expansion of free childcare and support for staff, including those in the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) sector, which has raised concerns of the impact on staffing since the Scottish Government launched its 1,140 hour per year free childcare project.

“We’re looking at areas around what we can do in relation to the pathfinder projects that we have that help provide that all year round, school age child care from breakfast clubs to after school clubs,” he said.

“We’ll be looking at what we can do in relation to further expansion to two-year-olds and what more can be done in supporting staff in the PVI sector in particular.”

He added: “There’ll be a whole package announced, and of course it will be fully funded by the Government.”

But the First Minister – who has previously been chastised by Holyrood’s Presiding Officer after details of Government announcements were released to the press before being made in parliament – was reticent over details about other parts of the Programme for Government.

However, he did commit to take action to protect people living in the private rented sector.

Speaking to LBC, Mr Yousaf was asked about loopholes in the Government’s rent freeze which allows prices to rise between tenancies at a much higher rate than the maximum of 6% currently allowed by the legislation.

“Yes, there will be some detail around what we can do to protect those in the private rented sector,” he said.

“We know it’s a significant challenge right across the country, but we know there’s particular areas that face that challenge, perhaps, more than others, so there’ll be some information in the Programme for Government about our plans for over the next 12 months.”

But asked if there were plans to increase the Scottish Child Payment from £25 per week to £30 per week – something Mr Yousaf said he would consider during the SNP leadership race earlier this year – as well as on plans for taxation and the relationship with business, the First Minister appeared keen to give nothing away.

Reports over the weekend suggest a pilot in the public sector could be among his plans, with the First Minister telling the PA news agency there was “a really strong evidence base” for the move and he would like to gather more evidence, adding “the public sector would naturally be one of the areas to look at”.

Mr Yousaf’s first Programme for Government – a major date in the diary for any first minister – comes against the background of struggling public finances, with a £1 billion black hole expected in next year’s budget.

Asked if the financial position could impact on his ability to make his mark on Government on Tuesday, the First Minister said: “There’ll definitely be some initiatives that I hope will demonstrate the direction I want to take the Government, but there’s no getting away from the scale of the public finances and the challenge that we face in relation to those public finances.

“It’s the most difficult time, certainly I’ve ever seen for the public finances, and I’ve been in Government for 11 years.

“We know because of the disaster if the mini budget last year from the UK Government that public finances are not just going to be constrained for the year ahead, but I’m afraid for probably many years to come.”