BLOG: Janine Ryan, Head of Childminding Services, SCMA

BLOG:  Janine Ryan, Head of Childminding Services, SCMA
Growing childminding in Scotland 

Childminders play an important role in supporting children as they grow, learn and develop. SCMA is the only organisation which supports all aspects of childminding in Scotland, and as such, we are also very mindful of our role in helping to support the growth of professional childminding. 
We recognise that you are dedicated, self-employed childcare professionals, providing a quality childcare option for children and families which has many real benefits for children.  As such we are very mindful of our role in helping you to develop your business, and how this can support the growth of childminding as a whole.  With the expansion of Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) dominating the landscape for next year, it provides us with a timely opportunity to reflect on the last 12 months and look ahead to 2020. 
The expansion of ELC 

Throughout 2019, the expansion of ELC has seen local authorities working to phase in their plans and implementation has varied across Scotland – with some piloting the full 1140 hours offer for children, whilst others have been working towards this, phasing in a reduced offer.  We have seen an increase in blended models, with childminders working in partnership with nursery settings, and a small but growing number of childminders offering the full 1140 hours in their setting.  

Broadly speaking, the past year shows significant growth in the number of settings now in partnership with local authorities as funded providers; varying from playgroups, to third sector organisations and private nurseries.   

However, our ELC audit, published early in October, revealed that this growth was still slow in relation to childminders.  It showed that only 16% of childminders in Scotland have been approved to deliver funded hours for eligible two year-olds and only 12% for three and four-year olds. Even more disappointing is that fewer still were actually delivering.

So, how can we help change this? 

Business sustainability 

We know that funded ELC places make a difference for families but at SCMA, we also want to ensure that this can make a difference to childminders, in terms of both financial reward and being able to improve outcomes for children.  Part of our role and focus for 2020 will be to help support those childminders interested in delivering funded hours to enhance their earning potential and support a sustainable business model.

Where childminders have been able to deliver funded hours, the opportunities for childminding are clear.  For those who are perhaps hesitant, unsure of what it requires, or concerned about how it will affect your businesses, I would like to reassure you that there are positive examples of how taking the plunge to become a ‘partner provider’ in delivering ELC can enhance your livelihood.

For example, childminders in Scotland who are partner providers have seen a substantial increase in relation to the number of ELC hours they are being funded to deliver.  For some, this has resulted in excess of 80-100 funded hours per week and over 75% of their expected income.

Others are working in partnership with the local authority to provide the full 1140 hours.  This means that for some, they can have full-time places fully funded via ELC, which helps to contribute greatly towards a financially stable business model. For childminders involved in delivering funded hours, this is now very much part of core business and not an ‘add-on’.

The influence of parental choice  

At SCMA, we believe that parental choice is paramount to supporting the successful growth of childminding in Scotland.  If presented with the opportunity of accessing 1140 free hours, many parents will choose to do this for financial reasons. This could mean choosing between childcare providers who offer funded hours and those who don’t.  Our 2019 Membership Survey showed that unfortunately 1 in 5 of SCMA members reported losing families due to not being able to deliver funded hours.  It is clear that ELC will become a very important consideration in relation to future business viability. 
How can SCMA help? 

We appreciate that not all childminders wish to deliver funded hours, and we respect the varying reasons for this – but we do want to ensure that those who do want to, can come to SCMA for help and support. 

We are developing information and resources to support SCMA members who are entering into partnership with local authorities, and case studies demonstrating the positive impact delivering ELC funded hours can have on your business. 

SCMA is also looking at how we can further engage with parents to help communicate the benefits of professional childminding for children and families. With 92% of you achieving ‘good’ or above across all quality ratings at inspection, childminding is one of the highest rated childcare provider types in the country – there’s so much good work to shout about! 

There is no doubt this is a changing landscape – but it is one in which we are all working towards the same goal of providing children and families with quality early learning and childcare and improving outcomes for children in Scotland. It is our aim to help increase the number of childminders involved in providing ELC in 2020 and beyond, and by doing this, we believe we can help support the growth of the profession.  

I would like to thank you all for your hard work throughout 2019, and for your continued support of SCMA.  

Please contact us with any of your questions (no matter how small!) to find out more about delivering ELC additional hours, or you can also go directly to your local authority. 
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and all the very best for 2020.  
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