Early Learning and Childcare Audit 2019 from SCMA

Early Learning and Childcare Audit 2019 from SCMA
SCMA has today (Tuesday 8 October) published a national audit warning that parental choice could reduce if local authorities do not provide equitable access to all forms of childcare, including childminding to deliver funded Early Learning and Childcare (ELC).

With only 10 months to go until the Scottish Government’s expansion of 1140 funded hours of funded ELC, our audit has found that: 

only 12% of childminders in Scotland have been approved by local authorities to deliver funded hours for all three and four-year olds, and even less, (4%), are currently actually delivering funded hours during phased expansion  

only 16% have been approved by local authorities to deliver funded hours for eligible two-year olds, and even less, (3%), are currently actually delivering funded hours during phased expansion 

The disparity between the numbers of childminders approved by local authorities to deliver funded hours and those currently actually delivering funded hours is attributable to a number of factors including the phasing in of ELC at a local level and the manner in which it is being presented as an option to parents. 

Graeme McAlister, Chief Executive of SCMA, said: “ELC is an ambitious and exciting policy which has the potential to help many thousands of families in Scotland. We are aware that a number of local authorities understand the value of childminding, many have made progress in approving childminders and staff around the country are working hard to ensure that this landmark policy happens. 

“However, the evidence shows that nationally, the number of childminders who are currently involved in ELC delivery is both deeply worrying and unacceptably low.  Urgent action is now required to adjust the balance of childcare providers in delivering funded hours to ensure that we do not lose sight of parental choice and what childcare may be best for the child.  

“Our message to parents is simple. If your preference is to use your childminder for your funded hours entitlement and your childminder is eligible to provide this service, contact your local authority to request this.  If it is not available, insist that it is.”

While progress has been made by Scottish local authorities in recruiting an additional 4069 staff nationally to deliver ELC expansion in their nurseries, the childminding workforce in Scotland is declining.  SCMA has received anecdotal reports from members that childminders have been leaving childminding, either to work in local authority nurseries or completely, as a result of ELC expansion. 

A recent survey of SCMA members found that 21% of childminders who responded reported that they had lost families from childminding due to not being able to offer funded hours.  Moving provider can often be distressing for children as it is disruptive and breaks the relationship which has been established with their childminder.  

The Scottish Government has recently reaffirmed its commitment to enabling parents to choose childminding as an option for receiving their funded hours in the Programme for Government 2019-2020 and SCMA has been working constructively with local authorities and the Scottish Government to support implementation of the policy.  

The report makes a number of recommendations, including: 

National guidance should be strengthened as a matter of urgency to require all local authorities to ensure a balanced provider model within their delivery plans including all provider types (local authority, private and voluntary sector) and to avoid any bias in commissioning 

All local authorities in Scotland should be required to develop supplementary Childminding Action Plans to demonstrate how they will escalate and accelerate their inclusion of childminding in ELC delivery prior to, and beyond, August 2020

The Scottish Government should support SCMA in undertaking research to understand the reasons behind the declining childminding workforce and then in implementing targeted measures, such as implementing a national recruitment campaign to promote childminding as an attractive career option.

Childminding is a high-quality form of childcare provided in a home setting, with benefits such as low adult to child ratios. 

92% of childminders in Scotland achieved ‘good’ or above across all quality ratings, following independent inspection by the Care Inspectorate and evidence has shown childminding can enhance early learning, confidence and social development. In the last reported year, 32,700 children in Scotland were registered with childminders.

Read the ELC Audit 2019 in full