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From this month, up to 130,000 children across Scotland will be able to benefit from 1,140 hours of free early learning and childcare (ELC) every year, including those in the Western Isles.

While the majority of children in funded ELC were already able to access the expanded hours, legislation which came into effect on the 1st August means that every local authority in Scotland will now offer the full number of funded hours to those children who are eligible.

The Scottish Government has been working closely with local authorities and ELC providers across the country in order to deliver the promised expansion of funded ELC from 600 to 1140 hours. The funding for the increased hours is now available to all three and four-year-olds in Scotland, as well as eligible two-year-olds, and it is estimated that these extra funded hours will save families up to £4,900 in childcare costs each year.

In consultation with parents, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have introduced variations of early learning and childcare models throughout the Western Isles to allow parents greater flexibility on how they access the additional free hours over the working day and week. These include the use of registered childminders and partner nurseries, through term time and over the course of the full year.

MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, said: “I am delighted that the Scottish Government’s expansion of free early learning and childcare means that families in the Western Isles are now able to access the full 1,140 hours of ELC entitlement for their children.

“These additional hours will make a transformative difference to local families, with children in the Western Isles able to benefit from almost double the previous number of funded ELC hours. This increase in funded hours will ensure that children have more time to play and learn, whilst their parents and carers have more opportunities to work, study or volunteer. 

“The delivery of the 1,140 hours ELC expansion in the Western Isles would not have been possible without the co-operation and hard work of the Comhairle and local childcare providers, and I would like to commend them for their efforts, particularly in the challenging context of the pandemic.”