SCOTTISH Borders Council is to continue with its planned rollout of extra childcare hours, despite protests from parents who say their children are being discriminated against.

Peebles parents say that in their town, some of the most privileged households from the north of the town are benefiting from extra childcare hours, due to a small pocket of deprivation close by, whereas children who are less well off in the south of the town are missing out.

From August 2020, every parent in the Borders will be entitled to 1,140 hours of free childcare for all youngsters aged three or four, as well as eligible two-year-olds, up from the previous entitlement of 600 hours.

In a bid to ensure all goes smoothly, Scottish Borders Council has been phasing the new entitlement in early in some parts of the region, leaving some parents having to pay more than others for the same nursery placements.

The council has prioritised areas for extra hours after establishing which have the greatest needs based on a child poverty index.

In Peebles, those in the south of the town will remain on the current 600-hour regime because there are no communities with significant deprivation there.

Peebles resident Christine Irvine, of Glen Road, organised a petition calling on Scottish Borders to expand the roll out to all children in Peebles, and this was first presented to the council’s audit and scrutiny committee in March of this year.

The audit and scrutiny committee, which is mostly made of opposition councillors, has forwarded the petition on to Scottish Borders Council’s ruling executive committee, which met on Tuesday 30 April to discuss the petition.

Michelle Strong, the council’s chief education officer, told the committee that officers do not support altering the planned roll out: “There are concerns about deviating from the planned phasing, given the scale of the roll out.

“As you know, the Care Inspectorate oversees all early learning childcare provision.

“If the council wishes to make changes they must be agreed with the Care Inspectorate and that could take several months.

“The early learning expansion also requires a significant workforce. While we are working hard locally and within national guidelines, what we have to be careful of is adding additional pressures which could bring issues such as having the right number of staff in the right places.

“Our officers and the council are fully committed to the expansion plan. Deviating from the agreed plan would create additional work pressures and create confusion for parents.

“If an exception is made to the plan then other parents will look for other exceptions to made be as the roll out is phased in.”

Ms Strong also advised that bringing forward any part of the roll out would incur a financial cost for the council, and placements may not be available in local nurseries for the extra hours.

Kelso and District councillor Tom Weatherston told the committee: “I can see why parents get upset when some get extra childcare hours and others don’t, but the Socttish Government has allowed local authorities to roll this out in stages.

“If officers are telling us this is the best way forward, then I’m happy to support them.”

Councillor Weatherston’s colleagues agreed, and voted to instruct officers to not deviate from the agreed roll out plan of extra childcare hours.