Fees and Self-Isolation: An Update

Fees and Self-Isolation: An Update
As members will be aware, following our receipt of an update from the Scottish Government late last Friday (23 April 2021) in which it was stated that childcare providers should not charge parents fees when families were self-isolating, we wrote to the Scottish Government on Monday to express serious concern and seek clarification about this. 

On Tuesday we discussed this in a meeting with the Scottish Government at a senior level and also undertook an overnight survey to capture a current overview of members’ experiences of self-isolation, fees and payment and the impact that not being able to charge any fees when families are self-isolating would have on their businesses and their support for families in their communities. 

This survey attracted a fantastic response – over 1,200 within 24 hours and almost 1,450 free-text comments highlighting the strength of feeling and concern. Thank you to those of you who responded.

Our survey found that:
  • almost 2 out of 3 childminders have experienced a child not attending their setting when it was open due to the child self-isolating, 40% of whom have experienced this on three or more occasions;
  • a majority of childminders (63%) had received some level of fee from all of their families when children had to self-isolate, but over 1 in 3 had received fees from only some or no families;
  • 66% of respondents who had received voluntary fees reported these had been full fees, as a result of which it should not be surprising that 43% of childminders reported no change in monthly income, however a comparable number (42%) reported a very significant or significant reduction in monthly income due to only receiving partial or no fees;
  • 70% of childminders have agreements in place with parents to cover self-isolation;
  • 90% of childminders reported that, in their experience, parents are happy with these agreements; and
  • almost two thirds of childminders (64%) believe their business will not remain viable if they are not allowed to charge parents when their setting is open and children are self-isolating.

As a series of restrictions have started to ease, most notably around non-essential shops and hospitality, it is expected that this may lead to an increase in community transmission of COVID-19, in contact tracing and in self-isolation as we progress through recovery. As such, it is extremely important that these findings are considered and the disproportionate effect that this could have on childminding businesses, their viability, support for families, parental choice and the expansion of Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) policy.

We believe that any measures at this time should be fair, balanced, proportionate and demonstrate an understanding of the area they are designed to address. Preventing childminders from charging fees during periods in which their business is open and families are self-isolating would be none of these. 

As such, we have again called on the Scottish Government to recognise this and to either:
  • reconsider its position and enable childminders to charge retainer fees when families are self-isolating (on a voluntary basis and a low level, or a higher level if parents are supportive of this) as part of their established business practice;
  • or directly compensate childminders for any loss of income arising from this decision. 

We have included our detailed survey results in a briefing paper which we have submitted to the Scottish Government today. This includes a range of illustrative comments reporting in members’ own words how much of an impact this would have on their businesses, along with commentary on the issues raised.

SCMA members will soon receive a copy of this briefing paper by email.