SCMA Statement on Financial Support for Childminding

SCMA Statement on Financial Support for Childminding

Today’s confirmation of an additional £330,000 financial support for the Childminding Workforce Support Fund presents mixed news for childminders. However, in considering this it is important to separate the Childminding Workforce Support Fund, which SCMA initiated, from the Scottish Government’s Transitional Support Fund which we are aware has caused significant discontent and anger amongst childminders.

What is this additional funding for?

This additional funding represents a scaling-up of the Childminding Workforce Support Fund for childminders experiencing financial hardship.  Earlier in the year SCMA recognised childminders were falling through the cracks between different potential sources of government funding or grants.  We took the initiative, released £30,000 from our financial reserves and asked the Scottish Government to ‘match fund’ this by also contributing £30,000. This enabled us to establish the Childminding Workforce Support Fund. We recognised this wouldn’t be a ‘cure all’ and that this small grants fund would only offer some financial support to those childminders experiencing extreme financial difficulties - with the capacity to make 170 awards of up to £350. 

When the Childminding Workforce Support Fund was launched in July it was overwhelmed by demand – because of this SCMA was able to build a case for further support for childminders experiencing hardship.  As a result, Scottish Government has today awarded a further £330,000 to help support childminders experiencing hardship.  Despite the understandable frustrations regarding wider access to funding, this news is a positive in that it will enable another 940 childminders to receive a grant of up to £350 to help relieve financial hardship.  This wouldn’t have happened if SCMA hadn’t acted to secure this financial support from the Scottish Government. 

While on the one hand this funding for childminders is welcome, SCMA has clearly advised the Scottish Government that we believe this level of support will not be sufficient to meet the level of need within childminding at this time.  We also know it is completely out of step with the much larger level of financial support made available to other providers through the Transitional Support Fund.  Childminders have already had to wait a number of weeks while discussions took place, so SCMA agreed to accept this funding at this stage to avoid further delay to childminders in receiving support. However, in doing this, we view this as only a step towards what is required to support childminding, and what is more in line with the support which has been provided for all other childcare providers.

Childminding Workforce Support Fund: administration and re-opening (how, when etc)

SCMA undertook the administration of the first phase of the Childminding Workforce Support Fund. However, we have a fairly small team and it would not be possible for us to absorb the administration of this scaling up of the fund within existing staff capacity. It has been agreed that SCMA will continue to oversee the fund, but it will be necessary to bring in additional support to administer this larger fund and we are currently exploring a range of options for doing so quickly. The Scottish Government has made an additional financial allocation to cover the administration of this fund and SCMA has already advised the Scottish Government that any funds remaining within the allocation for administrative support (beyond organisational costs) will be added to the Childminding Workforce Support Fund to top up the financial support directly available to childminders.

We appreciate that many of you will have lots of questions about this next phase of the fund –“I’ve applied already, do I need to do anything?”, “When will the fund re-open?”, “Will it be promoted in advance and open for long enough to apply?”.  Please be assured we will provide information about this as soon as possible. SCMA is in ongoing discussion with the Scottish Government about this and, in particular, the fairest method of treating those who have already applied (and whose applications are pending) and those who would like to apply, given the limited capacity to make awards within the second phase of funding.

The Transitional Support Fund and Childminding

SCMA has been heavily involved in contributing to national discussions about recovery throughout COVID-19. This has involved contributing to the development of operating guidance and also work looking at the financial sustainability of the sector. It has been recognised that many providers are concerned about their financial sustainability and that in particular there are significant concerns about non-funded providers who are wholly reliant on private income - in essence, the majority of childminding settings. It was also proposed that transitional support should be considered for the wider sector.

The Scottish Government then set up the Transitional Support Fund as a targeted fund for other providers (excluding childminding) linked to the implications of their operating guidance for re-opening in Phase 3, and it became clear this fund was being allocated to local authorities to administer and would be unlikely to be changed. We found this approach very disappointing and divisive, but continued constructively to press the need for childminders to receive financial support. We believe the underlying issues are the same for all providers – the risk to financial viability whether through the impact of operating guidance or other factors which affect their ability to re-open or to stay open. Around 30% of childminding settings (1300) are still to re-open and many childminding settings (open and closed) have significant concerns about their financial viability.

As stated in a recent update on this position and in discussions with Scottish Government officials, we believe that the whole handling of the Transitional Support Fund (from establishment through to communication) has been very poor and divisive. As such, we will continue to urge the Scottish Government to redress this and to allocate financial support in line with that of other providers.

Widening Inequalities Between Childminders and Other Providers in Scotland

We know many childminders are very frustrated and angry and we share your frustration.  SCMA has also advised the Scottish Government that we are deeply concerned at the inequalities between childminding and other childcare providers in Scotland which have emerged in recent years and which, as a result of COVID-19, are getting wider and deeper -

  • over the last 5 years there has been very slow progress and much local authority variation in including childminders in delivering ELC funded hours; the childminding workforce has also declined in parallel to the local authority ELC expansion;
  • during lockdown some local authorities did not include childminding alongside their own hubs to provide critical childcare and support the response to COVID-19;
  • differentials in UK government support during COVID-19 have emerged between larger providers (with staff on furlough) and childminders, in which emerging information would indicate the money received by childminders may have been much less than anyone anticipated; and
  • this has only been compounded by differentials in transitional support. Hardship support is welcome for those most in need, but as with other providers childminding also requires support during transition.

These inequalities require intervention and further financial assistance from the Scottish Government to support, maintain and to invest in the future of childminding - a unique form of childcare. Please be assured - we hear you.  SCMA is absolutely dedicated to representing your views and experiences and we will continue to advocate for further financial support and recognition for the amazing work that you do. 

Action Plan on Childminding

Last October SCMA advised the Scottish Government of the need for Childminding Action Plans to address a number of the issues which childminding has been facing. These issues have only intensified during COVID-19 and the situation is critical.

We know that many of you feel disillusioned, undervalued and treated less equally over many years. This has been worsened by recent developments and many childminders have highlighted that you feel repeated statements from government saying you are valued feel hollow without firm actions to demonstrate this and back this up.  The issues we face are not going to be resolved overnight and require both short and long-term actions and commitment – and SCMA is in it for the long haul.  Just before COVID, we had developed a new ambitious three year strategy as part of a longer-term journey to fundamentally change perceptions of childminding and the value attached to it - while strengthening support for childminders, children, families and communities around Scotland.

Today’s new commitment from the Scottish Government to an Action Plan for Childminding is welcome, as it does recognise childminding has distinct challenges and needs, but the devil will be in the detail and childminders need more than words.  It is essential that this includes a number of new, additional and supportive measures to provide the affirmative action which is required for childminding and to help restore some of the confidence which has been damaged by recent events.

So, on the one hand, today’s news is positive in that another 940 childminders will receive financial support, but we also recognise that for many childminders it will not be enough and much work remains to be done. Please be assured that SCMA remains absolutely committed to supporting our members, the wider childminding community and the children and families you work with.

Thank you for your continued hard work and support. 

Graeme McAlister

Chief Executive

9 September 2020