Childcare providers: closure information
This applies to providers of childcare who are registered with the Care Inspectorate, including after-school services, holiday provision and breakfast clubs.
On 19 March 2020, the Deputy First Minister announced that most local authority schools and nurseries in Scotland would be closing from the end of the school day on Friday 20 March 2020, as part of the Scottish Government’s response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
In his statement, the Deputy First Minister also made clear that provision for children within school and childcare settings would continue to be required for the following priority groups:
- Vulnerable children who often rely on childcare settings and school life for hot meals or for a safe and comforting space.
- The children of key workers who will require continuing access to appropriate learning and childcare that allows their parents or carers to participate in the national response to Covid-19.
This means that:
- Local authority nurseries closed from the end of the day on 20 March 2020, unless they are involved in the provision of emergency childcare for key workers or in supporting vulnerable children.
- Private, third sector and independent childcare providers, including nurseries and out of school care services, may have closed from the end of the day on 20 March 2020, unless they are involved in the provision of emergency childcare for key workers and vulnerable children.
- Local authorities will coordinate and fund the provision of emergency childcare services and have been asked to give priority to private and third sector childcare providers to deliver this.
- To support this, the Care Inspectorate has produced registration contingency plan guidelines for childcare settings continuing to operate to provide emergency childcare for key workers and vulnerable children.
- The Scottish Government is looking carefully at measures which can support the childcare sector through this challenging time, recognising that it is a varied sector with a large number of small businesses, social enterprises, third sector organisations and self-employed workers.
- As of 25 March 2020 childminders are advised to cease all provision apart from critical childcare for key worker families and vulnerable children until further notice. Advice for childminders is that they limit the number of households for whom they provide childcare to a maximum of two, other than their own, at any one time. Where childminders are working with more than two families over the course of the week, it is advised that they consider additional cleaning measures to reduce risk of transmission via surfaces and equipment.
Who will be eligible for emergency childcare?
Parents and carers who are key workers will be eligible for emergency childcare. Provision for the children and young people who most need support, including children with additional support needs, will also be prioritised.
Who is a key worker?
Key workers help deliver essential services which support the vulnerable and aid local community resilience. Local authorities may have slightly different criteria to meet the needs of local communities. While decisions will be taken locally, we have issued guidance to local authorities that sets out the keyworkers we expect them to consider. There are three categories of keyworkers. Category 1 represents those providing the most essential services during our national Covid-19 response.
- Category 1 keyworkers include health and care workers directly supporting the Covid-19 response; health and care workers supporting life-threatening emergency work, as well as critical primary and community care provision; energy suppliers and staff providing childcare/learning for other category 1 staff.
- Category 2 keyworkers include all other health and care workers, and wider public sector workers providing emergency or critical welfare services. For example, fire, police, and prison services; social workers, and so on, without whom serious damage could be inflicted on the welfare of Scotland’s people.
- Category 3 keyworkers are all other workers without whom there could be a significant impact on Scotland (but where the response to Covid-19, or the ability to perform essential tasks to keep the country running, would not be severely compromised).
How will services get involved in emergency childcare provision?
Registered childcare services, including early learning and childcare providers, out of school care and holiday club providers, should contact their local authority. In the case of services which are currently unable to operate due to staff sickness or self-isolation measures, there may be flexibility to use wider staff pools or for existing staff to work in new locations.
How will services be funded to provide emergency childcare?
Local authorities will provide funding for emergency childcare services.
Local authorities have been asked to give particular weight to using existing childcare provision and expertise including private and third sector providers across Scotland.
When will emergency childcare need to be available and for how long?
- Emergency childcare will be implemented as soon as is possible following school and childcare closures. Local authorities have been asked to implement this by Friday 27 March where possible.
- Emergency childcare will be required for as long as schools and childcare settings remain closed to enable key workers to continue to fulfil their roles.
How much emergency childcare will be available for each child and what will it look like?
- Emergency childcare will need to be tailored as far as possible to meet the requirements of key workers who will no longer be able to rely on normal arrangements for childcare.
- This will be based on local need and implemented by the local authority. Emergency childcare services will be required to operate flexibly, supporting families who may have children of different ages and needs.
- The Care Inspectorate have produced operational guidelines which will enable delivery of emergency childcare services while continuing to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children.
What does this mean for childminders?
- As of 25 March 2020 registered childminders are strongly advised to cease all provision apart from critical childcare provision for key worker families and vulnerable children until further notice. Where possible, critical provision should be delivered as part of a coordinated local authority-led emergency response. The latest guidance on critical childcare provision for keyworkers can be accessed here.
- If providing childcare for key worker families and/or vulnerable children, childminders are strongly advised to limit the number of households for whom they provide childcare to a maximum of two, other than their own, at any one time. This measure is intended to reduce the risk of transmission between households.
- Operational public health advice for all childcare and educational settings providing critical childcare at this time will be available soon, and must be adhered to.
What does this mean for nannies and babysitters?
- Nannies and babysitters, as with any other childcare provider, should only still be operating if they are providing services to key workers or to vulnerable children or to support families who have ongoing regular or irregular care needs or one-off care scenarios (e.g. birth of a sibling or attendance at a medical appointment).
- If providing childcare for key worker families and/or vulnerable children, nannies and babysitters are strongly advised to limit the number of households for whom they provide childcare to to in order to minimise the risk of transmission between households. Where possible this should be a single household.
- The exception to this would be residential nannies who would be expected to be following the same restrictions as other households (with the assumption that their employer’s home is their household).
- A single household should limit as much as possible the number of different babysitters or nannies they are using. This should be the same person wherever possible.
Support for childcare providers during closure period
Settings delivering funded ELC
The ongoing sustainability of the childcare sector is of paramount importance to the Scottish Government. We are working with local authorities to ensure that funded providers continue to be paid for the statutory ELC hours they were contracted to provide during this period of disruption, even where these hours cannot be used.
Support for childcare businesses
A series of announcements have been made by both the UK and Scottish Governments regarding support for businesses of all sizes facing disruption.
The Scottish Government is looking carefully at which of these measures are relevant to the childcare sector, recognising that it is a varied sector with a large number of small businesses, social enterprises, third sector organisations and self-employed workers. We are in close contact with the sector representative bodies and will continue working together to identify what further support may be required.
The Scottish Government continues to work closely with the UK Government to ensure any support benefits all businesses, including Scottish businesses, and complements existing Scottish Government interventions.
With the other devolved administrations and the UK Government, we launched Covid-19 helplines to support businesses on 13 March: https://www.gov.uk/business-support-helpline
This augments the Scottish Government’s Business Support website, which is the best way for business to find the information they need (24/7):
We are aware that Scottish businesses are concerned about insurance, and that many standard policies do not provide cover for business interruption or loss of income due to coronavirus.
As the regulation of financial services is reserved to the UK Government, Scottish Ministers are unable to directly intervene in the commercial decisions made by financial services companies. However, Scottish Government officials are in regular contact with HM Treasury and the Association of British Insurers. I also understand that the UK Government is in continual dialogue with the insurance sector about its contribution to handling this unprecedented situation. On 17 March, the UK Government agreed with the insurance industry that government advice for the public to avoid pubs, theatres etc. (rather than ordering businesses to close) would be sufficient for businesses with appropriate cover to make a claim, as long as all other terms and conditions of the policy are met.
You may find it helpful to keep in touch with developments in the insurance sector by visiting the Association of British Insurers website.
What's next for childcare providers in Scotland?
The Scottish Government cannot confirm at this stage how long the closure of schools and nurseries will be in place for. It should not be assumed that they will open again after the Easter holidays. However, officials from the Scottish Government’s Early Learning and Childcare Directorate will maintain an ongoing dialogue with private and third sector representative bodies throughout the closure period, to ensure the sector is sighted on all developments and further sources of support and information.
We recognise that this is a very uncertain and unsettling time for all those working within the education and childcare sector. The Covid-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge for public services in Scotland, and close co-operation and partnership working will be essential if we are to ensure we meet the needs of children and families, particularly those in the greatest need. We would like to thank all providers for your patience while we work with local authorities to develop more detailed plans for ensuring continuity of learning and care for those children and families who need it most.