8,000 childcare staff absent for past 5 years over mental health
The number indicates a Scottish childcare crisis, since more than 9 in 10 councils are unable to fully fund free childcare, per the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA).
According to figures from the Scottish Conservatives, over the past five years, more than 8,000 nursery and childcare staff have been absent due to mental health issues, indicating that the stress-induced absences increased by 53%.
Between the years 2018 and 2019, and 2022 and 2023, the absent number of staff was 8,076 due to stress of poor mental health - up from 1,159 in 2018-19 to 1,779 in 2022-23.
However, that number may be even higher since the Conservative party said that three of the 32 local councils did not respond to requests and four did not produce figures for 2022/23. Moreover, freedom of information is not applicable to private-sector nurseries and early education institutions.
According to the party, this indicates a Scottish childcare crisis, since more than 9 in 10 councils cannot fully fund free childcare, the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said.
A freedom of information request by the NDNA demonstrated that independent nurseries consist of a third of providers for 1,140 hours of free childcare, despite only claiming a fifth of the funding, and Scottish Conservative deputy leader and shadow minister for children and young people, Meghan Gallacher, called on the government to provide the required support for staff.
"These alarming figures point to a mental health crisis among early years and childcare staff under the SNP," she said, adding that the quickly rising number of stress-related absences "is very worrying but also grimly predictable given the SNP’s transparent and unacceptable neglect of Scotland’s childcare sector."
"The SNPs rollout of 1,140 hours free childcare has pushed businesses to the brink of collapse and has resulted in a mass exodus of childminders," she added, noting that "The invaluable work of early years staff and childcare providers is transformative in allowing new parents – like myself – to return to work, boosting our economy and benefiting young families."
Gallacher believes it is "a crying shame" that their childcare providers are so "underfunded and demoralised."
She continued to call out the First Minister of Scotland, Humza Yousaf, for "short-change[ing] Scotland’s childcare sector, especially when he wants to expand the provision offered to parents."
"The SNP must urgently up their game to ensure that early years and childcare staff are given the support that they need."