Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): childcare closures and emergency provision

Guidance on the daycare services for children in light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Contents
Coronavirus (COVID-19): childcare closures and emergency provision
Childcare providers: closure information

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.

Overview

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.

On 28 May 2020, the First Minister announced that from 3 June onwards, during Phase 1 of the Scottish Government’s route map for recovery from COVID-19, all childminders and fully outdoor childcare services can reopen if they wish to do so.

In allocating their spaces, continued critical childcare for keyworkers and vulnerable children should be the first priority. Beyond that, childminders and fully outdoor settings can use their discretion to allocate places to families.

We’ve published further guidance to support the reopening of childminding and fully outdoor childcare services.

During Phase 1, all other early learning and childcare (ELC) providers can remain open or re-open for the provision of critical childcare to key workers’ children and for vulnerable families only, in line with the latest Health Protection Scotland guidancepreferably as part of a coordinated local authority plan.

Providers can choose to open out with partnership with their local authority, but only to provide critical childcare until the wider reopening of childcare is permitted. This decision is to be made by the childcare provider alone.

The Scottish Government’s route map confirms that wider reopening of childcare services is expected to take place in Phase 3. An indicative date of 15 July has been announced for the reopening of remaining childcare services, subject to the criteria for moving into phase 3. 

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.
  • From 3 June onwards, all childminders and fully outdoor childcare services can reopen if they wish to do so. In allocating their spaces, continued critical childcare for keyworkers and vulnerable children should be the first priority

Emergency measures

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.

Providers can chose to open out with partnership with their local authority, but only to provide critical childcare until the wider reopening of childcare is permitted. This decision is to be made by the childcare provider alone.

Any provider wishing to open must be aware of current key workers definitions but can apply their own decisions on key worker status, using their judgement and awareness of local issues to ensure that those most in need of critical childcare are prioritised and taking account of the public health guidance that where children can be looked after at home they should be.

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.

Providers opening out with partnership with their local authority should agree fee arrangements separately with parents. Critical childcare provision provided free by local authorities does not automatically transfer over to private providers if a family chooses to change setting, providers should discuss arrangements with the local authority.  Critical childcare privately procured by parents has no relation to ELC funded hours entitlement.

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?

  • From Wednesday 3 June 2020, during Phase 1 of the Scottish Government’s route map for recovery from COVID-19, all childminders can reopen if they wish to do so
  • They must limit the number of households for whom they provide childcare to a maximum of four, in addition to children of their own household, at any one time. In allocating their spaces, continued critical childcare for keyworkers and vulnerable children should be the first priority. Beyond that, childminders can use their discretion to allocate places to families
  • Further guidance to support reopening of childminding services is available. This guidance will be kept under review as we move through the different phases of the route map for recovery

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.

We have published information on the mixture of support provided by the Scottish Government and the UK Government, which can be accessed here. We will continue to update these pages as more information and guidance becomes available.

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.

This augments the Scottish Government’s Business Support website, which is the best way for business to find the information they need (24/7).

What is the Scottish Government doing on insurance?

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.

Public Liability Insurance

Providers should check the terms and conditions of their public liability insurance policies and consult with their insurance providers and brokers to determine their employers’ and public liability insurance coverage for Covid-19. It is worth noting that different insurers may take a different view, therefore providers are encouraged to shop around to seek the most suitable cover at the best price.

The UK Government is in continual dialogue with the insurance sector to understand and influence its response to this unprecedented situation, and is encouraging insurers to do all they can to support customers during this difficult period.

What's next for childcare providers in Scotland?

During Phase 1, all other early learning and childcare (ELC) providers can remain open or re-open for the provision of critical childcare to key workers’ children and for vulnerable families only, in line with the latest Health Protection Scotland guidance.

The Scottish Government’s route map confirms that wider reopening of childcare services is expected to take place in Phase 3.

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.