Nicola Sturgeon Announces Care Review
Nicola Sturgeon has announced there is to be a review of the care system and child care in Scotland.
She revealed her plans at the SNP conference in Glasgow.
The conference took place this weekend - five months after the SNP won its third consecutive term in power at Holyrood. Ms Sturgeon spent much of it focusing on domestic issues.
With the SNP having pledged to almost double the amount of free childcare eligible youngsters receive to 1,140 hours a year by 2020, she said there would be a national consultation with parents on "how to do things differently'' which would make choice and flexibility key priorities.
Ms Sturgeon told the audience: "We will propose that parents can choose a nursery or childminder that best suits their needs and - as long as the provider meets agreed standards - ask the local authority to fund it.
In other words, the funding will follow the child - not the other way round."
For the very youngest children, the Scottish Government will start to provide Scandinavian-style baby boxes in pilot areas from January 1 2017.
"I don't know about you, but as a first foot offering, I think that beats a lump of coal,'' she said.
The boxes, which will contain clothes, nappies and other essentials along with a mattress so they can be used a cot, will then be offered to all new parents from the summer.
Ms Sturgeon hailed the scheme as a "powerful symbol of our belief that all children should start life on a level playing field''.
The review of the care system will look at its practices, culture and ethos, and will be "driven by those who have experience of care''.
The First Minister said: "This is not something that any other country has ever done before. We will do it here in Scotland first.''
She announced the review after saying Scotland could not "ignore the reality for too many children in care'' that means they are less likely to go to university, more likely to end up in prison and more likely to have mental health problems.
The SNP leader said: "This simply has to change. And I am determined that it will change.''
With healthcare shifting from hospitals to the community, she announced a "landmark'' commitment to increase spending on GPs to 11% of the frontline NHS budget.
"That's what doctors have said is needed,'' she stated.
"And it is what we will deliver.
"What that means. By 2021, an extra half billion pounds will be invested in our GP practices and health centres.''
Ms Sturgeon spoke about her "determination to build an inclusive Scotland'', as she said her belief that the country would become independent was stronger than ever.
She joined the SNP three decades ago as a teenager, and said: "In all those 30 years, I have never doubted that Scotland will one day become an independent country. And I believe it today more strongly than I ever have before.''