Early Learning and Childcare Audit 2022

Early Learning and Childcare Audit 2022

ELC 1140 Policy Report: Childminding Workforce in Scotland has declined by 34% during ELC expansion and is now projected to reach 64% decline by 2026 (with potential loss of 3700+ businesses and almost 22,000 childminding places for families): urgent intervention needed 

SCMA has today (29 November 2022) published our annual independent Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) Audit 2022, which we are commissioned to undertake by the Scottish Government. 

WATCH | Our latest video message from Graeme McAlister, Chief Executive of SCMA. 

The Audit warns that the devastating impact which the implementation of the expansion of ELC funded hours policy has already had on the professional childminding workforce in Scotland could worsen further. While presenting much stark new data, the Audit also highlights important interventions which if implemented urgently could support childminder recruitment and retention around Scotland and safeguard this high-quality childcare option for children and families before it’s too late.

Several factors have converged during ELC expansion to create difficult operating conditions for existing childminders, who are a dedicated workforce committed to providing high quality, flexible and affordable childcare all over Scotland.

SCMA is calling for urgent action by Scottish Government, local authorities and their representative bodies, the Care Inspectorate and others - to work collectively to redress these problems.

SCMA ELC Audit 2022: Data Analysis and Workforce Projections  
The Audit includes the latest analysis of official data which has found that the childminding workforce in Scotland has now declined by 34.9% (with the loss of 1926 childminding businesses and 11,363 childminding places) since 2016 during the last six years of ELC expansion to support the delivery of 1140 hours of funded of ELC for eligible two, three and four year olds. 

For the first time, it also includes workforce projections, based on current trend data, which predicts that without urgent intervention the decline in the childminding workforce in Scotland under ELC expansion could reach 42% by July 2023, 50% by July 2024 and 64% by July 2026. This could mean the loss of up to another 1789 childminding businesses and 10,555 childminding places for children and their families by July 2026.  This is on top of the reduction in the workforce already incurred to date.  

SCMA ELC Audit 2022: Other Findings

  • Number of Childminders Involved in Delivering Funded ELC: at a time when more progress was expected to have been made, the number of childminders involved by local authorities in delivering funded ELC to families has reduced. This marginal decrease masks greater activity and movement at local authority level in which progress in increasing the number of childminders delivering funded ELC is being overtaken by those ceasing to do so and adds to the increasing evidence that childminders have been or are planning to stop delivering funded ELC and/or leave the childminding workforce due to increasing and unsustainable levels of bureaucracy, duplicative quality assurance and paperwork. Most recently the large-scale #TellSCMA Childminding & You Survey (October 2022) found that:– 
- 82% of childminders who responded reported a ‘very significant’ or ‘significant’ increase in paperwork; 
- 48% of all childminders (and 66% of childminders delivering funded ELC) who responded are now doing an additional 5+ hours of paperwork unpaid, in their own time, every week; and 27% of all childminders (and 36% of childminder delivering funded ELC) working an additional 7+ hours (a day or more) per week to support this; 
- 43% of all childminders (and 53% of childminders delivering funded ELC) who responded have already had to or believe they will have to reduce their practice and income to support this;
- as a consequence, 53% of childminders delivering funded ELC who responded believe it ‘unlikely’ or ‘very unlikely’ that they will still be delivering funded ELC in 2-3 years’ time if the level of paperwork is not reduced.

  • Impact Assessments of Local ELC Expansion on Childminding: Six years into ELC expansion, 28 out of 32 local authorities have still not conducted an impact assessment of their local ELC expansion plans on local childminding businesses: only four local authorities have considered this (two through the procurement process and two through equality impact assessments).

  • ELC Offers, Blended Placements and Childminders’ Business Sustainability: While the vast majority of local authorities (25+ out of 32), confirmed that parents can choose to take their hours with a childminder - either in full or as part of a blended placement (i.e., hours split between a nursery and a childminder) for both eligible two year-olds and three to four year-olds.  SCMA’s linked childminder survey found that the highest responding group by far (70%) are still involved mostly in delivering funded ELC to three- to four-year-olds as part of blended placements. Only 16% of childminders delivering funded ELC who responded believed there is a ‘strong’ or ‘very strong’ match between local authority offers made to parents and their business needs and viability. Only 7 out of 32 local authorities in this year’s ELC audit confirmed that they consider whether the number of hours allocated to both providers within blended placements are of a high enough level to support their business sustainability. While many simply state that this is down to parental choice, there are signs that more local authorities are starting to recognise their responsibility when making ELC offers and to consider whether the hours offered are of a high enough level to support both providers’ business sustainability so that childminders are not just offered the remainder after the bulk of the hours have been taken for a local authority’s own nursery.

  • Local Quality Assurance (over and above National Quality Assurance): A number of local authorities have developed or are actively planning their own systems of local quality assurance, over and above quality assurance already being undertaken nationally by the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland (based on a mix of national standards and frameworks including the National Standard, the Quality Framework, How Good is Our ELC and Realising the Ambition) and involving quality visits two to three times per year. This duplicative quality assurance at a national and local level means that childminders involved in funded ELC undergo inspection by the Care Inspectorate and have to undertake up to three forms of self-evaluation for three different organisations on their singular practice each with their own requirements and documentation.  

Graeme McAlister, Chief Executive of SCMA, said: “We are supportive of ELC policy, and in particular the aims to close the attainment gap and to support families with funded childcare. However, the implementation of ELC policy at a national and local level has been problematic and we have previously reported the devastating effect this has had on the childminding workforce in Scotland. The last three annual audits have reported a 14.5%, a 26% and now a 34.9% decline in the childminding workforce during ELC expansion with the loss of over 1900 childminding businesses and over 11,000 childminding places for children and families. The findings have been met with limited response and these losses cannot be sustained. 

“Two years ago, SCMA also warned that we had the makings of a workforce crisis. That crisis is now here. Shortages of childminders are being experienced all around Scotland. This is impacting on parental choice and will impede the Scottish Government’s ability to deliver its Programme for Government commitments for one year olds and school-aged childcare – both areas in which childminders are heavily involved and have much experience in supporting families. It is clear from our new workforce projections that without intervention, the childminding workforce and loss of childminding businesses and places for families could almost double again by July 2026.

“Urgent intervention is key. Within this last year SCMA has piloted a supported model of childminder recruitment in remote and rural areas, which is successfully recruiting childminders in areas others have not been able to. With shortages of childminders all around Scotland, demand outstrips supply and there is a need and opportunity to establish many more childminding businesses which can provide a rewarding, flexible career. This needs to be scaled-up and extended nationally in urban, rural and mixed local authority areas. We have also undertaken extensive work to identify the issues affecting retention which must be addressed, most notably the significant increase in paperwork and duplicative quality assurance which has developed under ELC expansion. This needs to be tackled urgently and SCMA will be happy to participate in this process.  

“We have reached a critical crossroad and time period within which to act – to allow childminding to become less and less available, and potentially disappear altogether as a form of childcare in Scotland, or to act decisively and intervene before it is too late to safeguard childminding for children and families around Scotland. The clock is ticking."

Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) Audit 2022
ELC Audit 2022 Full Report

Appendix One | ELC Audit 2022 Full Data Set: Childminder Involvement in Funded ELC (eligible 2s and 3 to 4 year-olds)
Appendix Two | Childminder Experiences of Delivering Funded ELC (from #TellSCMA Survey)
Appendix Three | Changes in Childminding Workforce (2016-2022)