SCMA MEDIA RELEASE: Professional childminding on the edge of viability due to impact of COVID-19

SCMA MEDIA RELEASE: Professional childminding on the edge of viability due to impact of COVID-19

SCMA has today (25 September) issued a stark warning that almost half of all professional childminding businesses in Scotland are on the edge of financial viability and require further financial support from Scottish Government. Without this, there could be a major adverse effect on national economic recovery from COVID-19 given the vital role that childcare has in enabling parents to work. 

Almost 900 childminders responded to a snapshot SCMA survey which shows that 46% of these childminding businesses do not believe they will still be financially viable in six months’ time without financial support or an increase in business -  and 28% have had to run up debt on credit cards to supplement their income.  While the Scottish Government has provided transitional support to all other childcare providers in Scotland, through the £11.2m Transitional Support Fund, childminders have been excluded from being able to apply for this funding.

In ‘normal’ circumstances, around 4500 childminders in Scotland provide professional, high-quality childcare for 32,700 children throughout the country, but they are experiencing a worrying loss of business due to a number of factors linked to Covid-19 guidance –

  • 81% of respondents reporting a loss of families due to parents being required to work from home where possible by official Scottish Government guidance;
  • 57% of respondents also reported an increase of 20% on operating costs linked to compliance with Scottish Government guidance, while 30% reported working 20 or more additional unpaid hours during August to help meet the requirements of operating guidance.

1000 childminding settings remained open at the beginning of the pandemic to support the national response to Covid-19, providing critical childcare for key workers and vulnerable children while many other childcare providers had to close. This dedicated and highly skilled workforce is feeling let down and marginalised by the lack of financial support subsequently provided by the Scottish Government.

Separately, the Scottish Childminding Association had released £30,000 from its own financial reserves, secured ‘match funding’ from the Scottish Government and initiated the Childminding Workforce Support Fund to provide financial support for childminders who had been falling through the cracks between Scottish and UK Government financial support schemes during lockdown. Scottish Government recently confirmed a further £330,000 of funding which will enable 940 childminders to access small grants of up to £350.  While this is welcome, SCMA has advised the Scottish Government that this is completely out of step with the level of financial support to other childcare providers, of comparable size, who are entitled to up to £1500 via the Scottish Government’s Transitional Support Fund to support financial costs linked to operating guidance.

Graeme McAlister, Chief Executive, SCMA, said: “Our survey results have shown that many childminders have lost a significant amount of business as a result of official guidance requiring parents to work from home where possible. On top of this, there is now very clear evidence that childminders are incurring an increase in direct costs arising from the operating guidance. But even then, this doesn’t show the full picture. The majority of childminders are sole workers and are also now absorbing additional hours to undertake the enhanced cleaning requirements of the guidance. As such, many childminders are working these hours unpaid, late into the evening where other larger businesses may be paying additional staffing costs for this. All other childcare providers in Scotland have been able to apply for transitional support to help offset the additional costs, including staffing, arising from their guidance. It is time that childminders are treated equitably and also provided with transitional financial support.

“Our survey results also reinforce that recent funding provided by Scottish Government for childminding will be insufficient to meet the current level of need - and is completely out of step with the much larger sums which other childcare providers can access via other sources. This has been very divisive and left many childminders feeling dismayed. Childminding is consistently one of the highest rated forms of childcare, through independent inspection, and childminders deserve to be treated equitably. They are no less important than nurseries and other providers”.

“Childcare will play a very significant role in helping parents and carers get back to work and in supporting wider economic recovery. Unfortunately, more than six weeks after the schools went back over 900 childminding settings around Scotland are still to re-open and there are serious doubts as to whether they will re-open at all. This reduces parental choice for local, flexible childcare across all local authority areas. Childminding in Scotland is on the edge of financial viability and requires urgent action by Scottish Government to ensure these skilled, committed professionals can continue to provide support for children and families.  SCMA is committed to doing all that we can to ensure childminding businesses remain financially viable, both now and in the future, and to strengthen the childminding workforce in the long-term.”

Read SCMA Briefing Paper on Financial Support for Childminding