Childcare Sector Working Group minutes: February 2024

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 21 February 2024.

Attendees and apologies

  • Care And Learning Alliance (CALA)
  • Care Inspectorate (CI)
  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA)
  • Early Years Scotland (EYS)
  • National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) 
  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) 
  • Scottish Out of School Care Network (SOSCN)
  • Scottish Government (SG), Chair
  • Public Health Scotland (PHS)

Items and actions

Welcome, apologies, minutes and actions

The Chair opened the meeting and welcomed the group.

The Chair welcomed ADES to the meeting. 

The Chair noted that Cath Agnew will be leaving Care Inspectorate at the end of March and thanked her for her contribution to the group. 

Minutes from the previous meeting were agreed by the group. 

The action on distribution of the minute was raised and members agreed that it would be helpful if these could be shared with their members in future.

Publication of new health protection guidance

Public Health Scotland (PHS) presented on the publication of new health protection guidance for children and young people settings, including education. This is expected to be published in March. 

The guidance was developed through a multi-disciplinary guidance development group and has been adapted from the UK Health Security Agency guidance on health protection in children and young people settings. It will replace all previous guidance on reducing the risks of COVID-19 in early learning and childcare services, including childminding and school age childcare settings, as well as the previous Scottish Health Protection Network guidance on 'Infection Prevention and Control in Day Childcare Settings' from 2018. Information posters will be available to display in settings. 

SG noted the communications plan, which will include a communication to relevant sectors linked in a Care Inspectorate Provider Notice and asked the group to disseminate the information to their members. SG are also proposing to host a webinar with PHS aimed at practitioners on the key aspects of the guidance. 

Members gave feedback on the presentation, including a suggestion that language on the posters explicitly covers childcare settings. Members asked that communications are clear on what advice has or has not changed in the updated guidance. 

Action: PHS agreed to review posters to ensure they were relevant to childcare settings. 

Updates from the Scottish Government (SG)

Quality, Equity and Workforce Unit 

SG officials are grateful for colleagues’ input to date on the Support for Quality Plan, which aims to set out to the sector how national organisations and Local Authorities are working together to support providers to deliver high-quality ELC. SG officials are working to update the draft plan so that this can be shared for input more widely. 

The Continuous Professional Learning (CPL) portal is due to launch in March. This will be a single point of access to high-quality CPL resources. SG officials are grateful to colleagues across the sector for their support in making this as comprehensive as possible.

Members had requested further information about changes to Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) registration categories that are due to come into effect from June, which will allow Adult Social Care staff and Childcare staff to move between the sectors. A separate information session is being arranged with SSSC. 

It was confirmed that the publication of a Strategic Workforce Framework for the childcare sector has been paused as work is taken forward to develop the PfG commitments and fully reflect feedback from stakeholders to date. Work continues on those actions that have already been agreed by the Framework Steering Group in the meantime. A further update will be provided at a future meeting. 

Strategy, Performance and Finance Unit 

The draft Budget for the financial year 2024 to 2025 was published in December and continues to move through Parliament. The overall financial context facing the SG is extremely challenging. Work is ongoing to plan for funding the commitments outlined in the Programme for Government. 

The draft Budget 2024 to 2025 will remove ring fencing from the £521 million ELC expansion funding, recognising that the programme is now three years into full implementation. From 2024 to 2025 the ELC quantum will be included within the General Revenue Grant, as part of the overall approach set out in the Verity House Agreement. SG will write to local authority Directors of Education and Finance to formally confirm this ahead of the new financial year. 

Work is underway with COSLA, local authorities and the Improvement Service to co-develop the ELC Outcomes and Measurement Framework. The team have had an initial consultation with LAs and will be looking to develop this in partnership with them and the sector. SG will bring a more detailed update on the Framework to a future meeting of the CSWG. 

0-5 ELC and Support Unit

Following the draft Budget publication, the focus on work around planning for expanding ELC will be on evidence-based policy development in 2024 to 2025. The Early Insights work has now been published and members should have received links to the PHS literature review and mapping report. Both reports highlight the complexities around ELC for younger children. 

An update was also provided on the Early Adopter Communities (EACs) and the move towards developing “all-age childcare” tests of change. SG officials are working with participating councils to develop this work and understand what families need. The School Age Childcare (SACC) programme has led detailed work on understanding user needs. The programme will build on this learning as it develops insights and starts to develop and test an offer for families with younger children. 

It was noted that following a range of discussions, including with CALA, it may be worth facilitating a dedicated discussion on the sustainability of rural childcare provision at a future meeting of the group. 

Sector Sustainability and Childminding Unit

The annual Sustainable Rates data collection report was published on 9 February 2024. This sets out the information provided by local authorities on the rates and meal payments for 2023 to 2024. 

SG and COSLA also published, on 20 December 2023, the joint review of the process for setting sustainable rates. The evidence-based review has identified where the process for setting rates can be improved further. More information on timescales and how the sector will be involved in taking forward the actions will be shared soon. 

Work is underway with the SCMA to launch a new programme on childminder recruitment and retention in 2024 to 2025. An update will be provided at a future meeting. 

Childcare Sector Representation and Sustainability Fund (CSRSF) grant recipients received an update on 7 February 2024 confirming that 2024 to 2025 grants will be protected at 2023 to 2024 levels. The team are currently meeting with each grant recipient ahead of the next 6 monthly report due at the end of March and will continue to support delivery of grant objectives during 2024 to 2025, with a particular focus on long-term sustainability.

School Age Childcare (SACC) Programme 

In the Community Test of Change Unit, officials are working closely with the existing Early Adopter Communities (EACs) to develop their proposals for 2024 to 2025.

On the Access to Childcare Fund (ACF) projects, at this stage it is important to integrate them with the wider system of SACC so next financial year five of the ACF projects will be integrated into EACs. The remaining four ACFs will continue to be funded by SG and will be looking to test specific elements. 

On the Scottish Football Association (SFA) extra-time programme, work is underway with the SFA to finalise the programme. This involves local clubs who provide before and after school and holiday provision. Currently there are 25 clubs providing places and there are plans to continue with this level of provision. Members noted they were surprised to see reference to the SFA in the context of the Depopulation Action Plan, given the lack of provision in rural areas. SG agreed to consider this and noted that the new EAC in Shetland will explore provision of SACC in rural areas.

In the Building the System Unit, work is continuing with SSSC and CI to explore potential options to strengthen the regulatory and qualifications frameworks to support a future system of SACC.

A new Unit has been established in the Division - the Digital and Design Approach Unit. This Unit will bring together the existing design and engagement work and work on the new digital commitment announced at PfG for 2023 to 2024 

Feedback from the sector on current issues 

Members raised the following items: 

  • provider neutrality and cross-border placements across Scotland. Members cited examples of proposed changes to local authority ELC delivery models that they are concerned will impact negatively on provider sustainability, parental choice and provider neutrality. Concerns were raised about the clarity of communication with providers and parents. In the discussion, it was noted that city LAs who are surrounded by comparatively smaller LAs are more affected by this issue. The challenging financial context for local authorities was noted. SG clarified the statutory position with regard to cross-boundary places (as set out in the 2021 Early Learning and Childcare Statutory Guidance) and the continued policy commitment to provider neutrality as set out in the Funding Follows the Child policy framework, which was developed jointly by COSLA and Scottish Government. SG confirmed that in the particular example discussed, the local authority was operating within the statutory framework. SG undertook to feed back the concerns that had been raised 
  • the impacts of the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 on provider neutrality and the provision of flexible ELC services was discussed, particularly in rural communities. Members raised particular concerns that different requirements apply to closure or a change in provider of a local authority service compared to a funded provider
  • provider neutrality and awareness of the different options available for funded ELC. Members reflected continued concerns that parents and carers do not consistently receive provider-neutral information from local authorities and other sources about the different types of ELC provision they could access
  • recruitment and retention of staff in the sector. Members reflected that this continues to be a key concern for providers across the sector. In particular, members noted the prevalence of staff self-funding qualifications; the cost of graduate apprenticeships and the lack of time for participants to complete the mentoring required 
  • ahead of the later discussion about guidance on the payment of sustainable rates to funded providers in 2024 to 2025, members highlighted concerns from the sector about the lack of certainty about funding levels for 2024 to 2025 and the implementation of the £12 per hour pay commitment. It was noted that businesses need to be able to plan ahead for staff salaries and parent fees 


  • SG to feed back concerns raised by members about cross-boundary arrangements and communication to providers and parents
  • SG to schedule discussions about the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 and provider neutrality at future meetings

Shared inspection framework

Care Inspectorate provided an update on the development of the Shared Inspection Framework, following a recent stakeholder engagement session and in light of the range of responses to the consultation. Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland (ES) planned to meet the following week to discuss next steps. They are looking to show what changes will be made in light of feedback from the consultation. They will re-engage with the stakeholder group and have had many helpful offers from those wishing to be involved. 

CI and ES will provide an update to the group on this at the next meeting.

Implementation of PfG commitment to increase pay to £12 per hour

SG introduced the draft guidance document. SG and COSLA understand that providers need certainty over future funding to be able to finalise wage rates and fees within settings and need more information to do this. However, there are formal stages that SG and COSLA must progress through to finalise and agree how the commitment will be delivered. Many of these stages could not be progressed until the additional funding was confirmed at the draft 2024 to 2025 budget on 19 December 2023. SG and COSLA are working through those processes as quickly as possible and will communicate the details of how the commitment will be delivered, and how the additional funding will be passed to providers, as soon as possible.
The guidance will complement existing Sustainable Rates guidance and will see the additional funding passed to providers through a consistent and transparent approach.

All childminders delivering funded ELC will receive the same uplift as other funded ELC settings. 

Where sustainable rates for 2024 to 2025 are confirmed after April 2024 local authorities should ensure that any payments to funded providers to support delivery of the £12 per hour pay commitment are backdated to 1 April 2024. SG will work with COSLA and LAs on ways to monitor delivery.

Members were asked to provide any written comments by close on Friday 23 February 2024. 

Forward look to agenda for next meeting and any other business 

Scheduled 22nd May 2024, planned to be held virtually.

Agenda items for consideration include substantive items on rural, provider neutrality, EAC updates. Members will be invited to suggest items in advance of the meeting. 

Back to top