Supporting Childminding as a choice – availability and access to childminders
Childminders offer flexibility for parents, and a continuity of care option for children from birth through school years. We want families to be able to access the flexible, supportive and high quality childcare that childminders can provide for that wide range of ages, including as part of the funded Early Learning and Childcare entitlement for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds.
Under Funding Follows the Child parents and carers can access funded ELC in any setting, including childminders, that meets the National Standard, has a place available, and is willing to enter into a contract with their local authority. Whilst all settings wishing to offer funded ELC will have to meet the National Standard, where relevant, there are variations in some criteria for childminders to recognise the unique aspects of the service that they provide.
We know that not all childminders will wish to offer funded ELC. However, where they do it is important to ensure that they do not face barriers.
Our previous engagement and consultations with the sector to inform the development of Funding Follows the Child highlighted some specific challenges that childminders previously experienced in trying to offer funded ELC. This included challenges regarding the contracting process and, in particular, the volume of documentation that had to be completed. As part of Funding Follows the Child the Scottish Government and local authorities are committed to simplifying the process for, and reducing the burden on, providers to deliver the funded entitlement.
This also requires continued strengthening of partnership working across the country between local authorities and childminders. This will help to ensure that local authorities are able to appropriately reflect childminding services in their local ELC offers for families. There are already good examples of strong partnership working, which has supported more childminders to deliver funded ELC in these areas.
We understand that childminders can play a particularly important role in rural communities, and recognise the importance of working with partners to reflect the impact of rural geographies on the demand for and availability of flexible childcare.
When children reach school age, childminders play a vital role in offering many families the flexible, high quality childcare they need. We understand the importance of school age childcare for many families, enabling parents and carers to access work, addressing social and economic exclusion, and providing high quality experiences and improved outcomes for children.
The Scottish Government have committed to developing a new strategic framework for school age childcare in this parliamentary term. We have already engaged with childminders as part of our draft framework and consultation work in 2019 and will seek to develop policy which ensures that childminding is part of an accessible, affordable and flexible school age childcare system across Scotland.
To support childminders in developing their service we recently created a "support available to childminders" guide to direct childminders to key resources.
Our Short and Medium Term Commitments
In the context of our wider commitment to developing a strategic approach to School age Childcare:
10. Publish a School age Childcare Strategic Framework which will recognise the importance of childminders to the provision of School age Childcare in Scotland. This will include prioritising engagement with childminders as part of the continued development of our school age childcare policy.
- We will consult with the SCMA, other representative bodies, childminders and families in the development of this framework and resulting actions, ensuring that the role of childminding in the community across families from birth to secondary school is reflected.
- We will use the Strategic Framework to refresh Our Commitment to a Vibrant Childminding Sector in Scotland in a way which ensures we add value for childminders and continue to recognise the role they play for families.
In the context of ensuring access to childminders as a valuable service in support of low income and vulnerable families:
11. We will explore use of the Access to Childcare Fund in actions which consider how childminders can support low income families to access innovative models of flexible and affordable school age childcare. This will build on learning from the Community Childminding Services model and will set objectives around access for children with Additional Support Needs, tackling child poverty, and support of parents into employment.
12. The Scottish Government and SCMA will explore the potential for the further development of the SCMA Wellbeing Service after it has been evaluated, and the further development of the Community Childminding Services model as part of supporting holistic flexible childcare for children of all ages.
In the context of supporting more families to benefit from use of childminders within their child's funded ELC entitlement:
13. Publish Funding Follows the Child and National Standard: a guide for childminders. This guide will support childminders to understand what they will need to do to be able to offer funded ELC under Funding Follows the Child. It includes key information on what the new National Standard means for childminders, directing them to resources and support. As part of this work we will consider with the SCMA and other partners where the support they're already providing to childminders could be expanded.
14. In the build up to the full national roll-out of all aspects of Funding Follows the Child we will work with local authorities to host a series of webinars aimed at supporting childminders to meet aspects of the National Standard and to enable them to offer funded ELC. We will include key partners including the SCMA in developing and running these sessions.
15. As part of the reestablishment of a delivery timeframe and plan for the 1140 expansion, we will :
a) actively share and promote case studies of how local authorities are effectively including childminders in their expansion plans. We will work with SCMA to identify recent examples of effective partnership working which we will share and promote across Scotland as part of identifying new capacity to bring forward the expansion.
b) continue to work with local authorities on understanding the benefits of supporting childminders to offer funded ELC, removing any barriers to childminders applying to offer funded ELC, and ensuring that decisions are informed by meaningful and effective consultation with parents and carers.
16. We are developing a new approach to operating the ELC Partnership Forum within current circumstances, and will ensure that the childminding representative bodies (SCMA, CALA and EYS) continue to play a part in the work of the Forum. As part of the Forum's upcoming work programme we will look to include a session focused on the challenges childminders face in being able to offer funded ELC, and on revisiting the wider work on the potential impacts of local authority policy and investment decisions on the competitiveness and business sustainability of providers.
Our commitments over the longer term will include building on our learning from actions in the short and medium term, and undertaking a parental study to explore how demand for all forms of childcare, including childminding, has changed as a result of COVID-19. This study will provide an evidentiary basis for designing future activities and interventions to support the availability of and access to childminders as part of Scotland's childcare offer.