One Plus just tip of iceberg warn childcare charity chiefs
Third Force News
VOLUNTARY sector childcare in Scotland is facing a cash crisis after the country’s largest pre-school care provider went into liquidation. One plus, one of the country’s largest charities, went into liquidation last Tuesday after funders failed to come up with a rescue package.
Over 600 staff have been issued with termination notices – the biggest ever mass redundancy in the Scottish voluntary sector.
Now organisations working in the childcare sector are warning that One Plus’s loses are only the tip of the iceberg.
The Glasgow-based charity closed its doors after it had gone to the executive with a £2m refinancing proposal but was turned down after civil servants demanded to know how the charity found itself facing financial ruin.
Management are blaming delays in European funding for the crisis. It says One Plus is waiting for £2.5m of approved funds.
John Findlay, the former chief executive of One Plus ,who is credited with growing the organisation to become a major player in childcare provision, blamed government ministers for failing to back the charity.
He said: “The government’s childcare strategy is flawed. One Plus has been trying to balance the provision of quality childcare and paying decent wages against the problems of getting money from the government’s childcare strategy and from parents.
“The problem is that One Plus works in areas of multiple deprivation where parents face stark financial choices: to feed their family or pay for childcare. One Plus needed more support to work in these areas but the executive turned a blind eye.”
And he denied claims by unions that One Plus’s management board were to blame for the crisis.
“It is not about One Plus being incompetent,” he said “Six months ago they were being lauded as a model organisation and an excellent example of how a social firm can succeed where private companies fail, so it would be difficult to see how, after 25 years, mismanagement could bring it to its knees. It’s about funding and how money is allocated.”
Rosemary Milne of SmileChildcare, speaking in TFN’s Podium column (p6) the accusations of mismanagement was merely a foil for the real issue of underfunding in the sector.
“The point that needs to be made and that goes to the heart of these crises is that voluntary sector ‘subsidised’ childcare for poor families is a casualty of a deeply misguided funding regime,” she said. “As grant funding is cut year on year, that regime is unravelling inside the very communities it is supposed to be supporting. Hundreds of jobs and literally thousands of childcare places for poor working families are being lost or put at risk.”
Irene Audain, the chief executive of The Scottish Out of School Care Network, added: “The reality is that the big idea that tax credits would provide the magic formula where parents could afford to pay the true market cost of their childcare has not worked for poor families. This is childcare on the cheap. It is failing our children. We watch in horror, not surprise, as we see services fail all over the country.”
But the executive maintained that management were to blame for the crisis. Des McNulty, deputy communities minister, defended the executive’s refusal of a bail-out bid by the organisation, and said management exercised poor judgement and did not appear to have proper financial controls, as it owed banks and the Inland Revenue millions of pounds.
“If the board had acted in a different way and not been in a state of denial, then it might have been a smoother transition. Their board expanded when it should have consolidated – so it was down to their poor judgment.”
Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner, Kathleen Marshall, said the situation “must raise questions about the funding of family support services.”