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SARAH MEDCRAF: The 'C' word that can have big impact on local economy


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Can you guess what the new ‘C’ word is on everyone’s lips?

Lovely children laying on multicolor canopy in circle. Team building game for daycare children in colorful t-shirts. Top view kids on wooden floor.
Lovely children laying on multicolor canopy in circle. Team building game for daycare children in colorful t-shirts. Top view kids on wooden floor.

The title probably didn’t help as it’s not ‘new’ to many people across Moray. But a topic that is consistently being discussed with me since returning from maternity leave a few months ago is CHILDCARE. Shocked? No I didn’t think so.

Childcare has been a hot topic for many years. Whether it be the availability, the cost or flexibility of what is available for working parents across the region.

Add on to this the different provision that is needed for 0-2 year olds and 2-3 year olds, the funded place requirements for the government’s 1140 hours for 3-5 year olds and the before/after school wrap around care required until approximately 12 years old and you’ve got quite a complex set up.

Every parent needs a different solution and parents are in such different circumstances it is impossible to have a one size fits all. I a survey, 87 per cent of parents in Moray (of over 500 respondents) said that their childcare solution isn’t adequate.

The problem seems to be heightened in the last couple of years and it’s a blended reason as to why. Moray lost around 15 per cent of its childminders through Covid and despite recruitment efforts there is less people looking in to childminding as a career. In fact, there has been a 26 per cent decline in childminders across Scotland over the last four years.

The sector is struggling to encourage people to work in it. Mainly because it is a low wage sector, when it really shouldn’t be, given the training required to carry out the vital roles. It’s difficult to get a business model that works, especially when childcare costs have risen by 44 per cent over the last ten years. Moray is a low wage economy – 15 per cent lower than the rest of Scotland so the amount that people can pay on childcare is already reduced.

Chief Executive Officer of Moray Chamber of Commerce Sarah Medcraf...Moray Chamber of Commerce Awards Lunch at the Laichmoray Hotel, Elgin. Tuesday 19th April 2022...Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Chief Executive Officer of Moray Chamber of Commerce Sarah Medcraf...Moray Chamber of Commerce Awards Lunch at the Laichmoray Hotel, Elgin. Tuesday 19th April 2022...Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

Parents understand it needs paid for, but the cost is out of reach for a lot of families (if you are lucky enough to get a space in the first place). The average family spends around 29 per cent of their income on childcare, some more than their mortgage.

I have been paying this for the last five years and although I agree it is a large share of your wage, the nursery is worth their weight in gold – looking after, supporting and teaching our children – with my eldest now suitably equipped to go to primary school after the summer.

Why is the Chamber of Commerce highlighting this? Well put simply if people can’t get childcare the economy suffers. Not to mention the attainment gap that grows for our young people who have not had access to childcare.

We’ve heard from parents who have had to turn down jobs because they can’t get after school club, or parents who have left careers to become underemployed or work part time to fit around the children. All of these parents are not maximising their potential with contributing to our economy and have less disposable income to spend.

We’re working with partners across Moray to see how we can support in alleviating some of these challenges and ultimately enabling people to come back to work. This will require joined up thinking and a blended approach which will be challenging but I am certain Moray will benefit.

Sarah Medcraf is chief executive of Moray Chamber of Commerce.


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