Framing and Progressing our Commitment to a Vibrant Childminding Sector
What follows is a set of activities, actions and future plans against 4 key themes, including some recent activities which have already been delivered.
These will be taken forward by the Scottish Government working in partnership with the sector and with local authorities. The focus initially is on those actions which are most pressing and can be delivered within the constraints of current public health measures. As those ease further our plans may adjust to make the most of new formats being possible; and where additional ideas can be taken forward, they will be.
Beyond the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in May 2021 this plan will be refreshed and brought up to date in line with feedback and reflection on delivered activities and actions.
Activities, Actions and Future Plans
We recognise that the restrictions imposed on operating during the initial lockdown and first stage of recovery (maximum household numbers and restriction on blended care) had a detrimental impact on childminding businesses. As the recovery has progressed these rules have been eased, however we are still living through a global pandemic and all of our activity remains subject to progress in suppressing and eradicating the virus.
We continue to keep the guidance for all providers under review, and we will continue to work closely with sector representative bodies (SCMA, CALA and EYS) to adjust and clarify guidance where we need to. Including consultation on substantive changes which may be required in different phases. We recognise that any move back to earlier guidance should it be necessary would be challenging. Given the importance of flexible childcare, which blended models can provide to parents and families, we will wherever possible maintain the ability for parents to make that choice where they need to.
In common with the Scottish Government's approach to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic as a whole, decisions on measures necessary will continue to be based on scientific and public health advice and consideration of the four harms. The direct health harms and importance of protecting the capacity of the NHS, will continue to inform our decision making alongside the risk of economic harm and social harm which may result from measures taken or the virus itself.
The activities and actions outlined below are a starting point in setting out our commitment to the childminding sector. They are focused on four themes which reflect the challenges experienced by childminders:
- Investing in the development and growth of the childminding workforce
- Supporting childminding as a choice – availability and access to childminders
- Promoting childminding as a choice – helping parents and carers to make informed choices
- Business sustainability and support for childminders
This document will continue to evolve and incorporate new activities such as those which are identified through some of the research we intend to undertake in the coming months.
The activities specifically cited in this first iteration of this document are set against a broad timeframe – short, medium and long term.
In the short term delivery of our planned activities will depend on progress in suppressing the virus and managing our ongoing response to the pandemic. However we are committed to continuing our work wherever we can to support a vibrant childminding sector as part of a thriving and diverse childcare offer in Scotland, therefore we have indicated where we will focus our efforts initially.
In view of that continuing uncertainty resulting from COVID-19, and the timeline to the next Scottish Parliamentary elections, we will take forward, complete or begin as many of these actions as are feasible and can be carried out in an impactful manner between now and the end of this Parliamentary session – in the next six months, or the short term.
Remaining actions will continue beyond that time period into the medium term – the following eight to twelve months. This plan will also be refreshed at these key stages.
Although some activities are cited as longer term objectives many of these flow from action which will start now. These are intended to provide an indication of the direction of travel over the coming 2-3 years, subject to feedback from the sector, emerging evidence, and decisions by Ministers about the Scottish Government's priorities and ambitions.
A refresh of the document following the next Scottish Parliamentary Election will enable a next iteration of this document to establish a forward plan over the lifespan of the next parliament.