Purpose of this guidance
This guidance will be kept under review as we move through the different phases of recovery and the different levels of intervention, and:
- provides clarity of expectation with regard to childminding services across Scotland that recognises childminding as a home-based care and learning environment
- takes account of scientific and medical advice and provides clarity on practical approaches to safely operating a childminding setting, and
- provides enhanced practices during the COVID-19 period to support the prevention and control of infection covering.
Where this guidance states that childminders:
- “must” do something, there is an expectation that it is done without exception
- “should” do something, this is strongly advised, where appropriate
- “may” or “may wish” to do something, the relevant sections have been included as examples of relevant practice that can be considered if appropriate
Nothing in this guidance affects the legal obligations of childminders with regard to health and safety and public health advice. Childminders must continue to adhere to all such duties when implementing this guidance. Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, they must have regard to the advice of the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland.
This guidance is not exhaustive and we expect childminders will continue to operate within the relevant legal and regulatory frameworks to ensure the health and wellbeing of children and parents while they are using their service, including any impact on or from members of the childminders own household. Measures put in place within the setting to comply with this guidance must not contravene health and safety legislation, for example, not leaving fire doors open to increase ventilation.
This guidance should be read alongside:
- Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools and ELC
- COVID-19: Scotland's Strategic Framework
- Health Protection Scotland non-healthcare settings guidance: this contains information on health protection and infection prevention and control issues including cleaning, hygiene measures, what to do if someone falls ill, laundry considerations and waste management
- Realising the ambition: Being Me - early years national practice guidance for Scotland
- Setting the table: nutritional guidance and food standards for early years providers in Scotland
- Infection Prevention and Control in Childcare Settings (Daycare and Childminding Settings)
- NHS Inform – COVID-19: highest risk guidelines
- Health and Social Care Standards
- Test and Protect Guidance
- individual risk assessments
- COVID-19: highest risk guidelines
Scotland’s Strategic Framework
We published our Strategic Framework update on 16 November 2021. It reaffirms our overarching strategic intent:
‘to suppress the virus to a level consistent with alleviating its harms while we recover and rebuild for a better future’.
More recently, the emergence of the Omicron variant has changed the previous balance of risks. Omicron is a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus first identified in South Africa and designated a Variant of Concern by the WHO on 26th November. It is transmitting rapidly within Scotland and there is strong evidence that community transmission is widespread. It is now the dominant variant within Scotland, with the potential to cause high case numbers. Our evidence paper was published on the 10 December 2021 and provides further information.
Keeping our guidance up to date
The Strategic Framework also reiterates that the unique impacts of the pandemic on children and young people, coupled with the necessity to ensure it does not prevent them receiving the best start in life, mean we must prioritise keeping schools and regulated childcare safe, open and welcoming, where it is safe to do so. It is recognised that, to enable this to happen, other mitigations may need to be put in place in individual settings as well as in wider society.
The Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues provides advice to support and inform the development of operational guidance for providers of learning, childcare and children’s services. From the end of September it will be chaired by Professor Linda Bauld, Interim Chief Social Policy Adviser to the Scottish Government and gives detailed consideration of how public health advice can be applied to operational implementation. Members include scientific and public health experts, clinicians and academics, as well as experts in education, early learning and children’s services.
The Sub-Group agreed that we could align some of the Covid risk mitigations in the suite of guidance for the formal childcare sector to levels of community transmission and that a sensible approach to doing that would be to align to protection levels.
Reflecting the impact of the mitigations on reducing risk of transmission, the Sub-Group recommended:
- retaining a consistent approach to the guidance on face coverings, ventilation and staff working with the same cohorts of children as much as possible
- we can align to protection levels the restrictions on: physical distancing between staff; visits by parents; cohort size, visits to the setting by specialist staff, the use of peripatetic staff, blended placements and some aspects of enhanced cleaning regimes
- we can align some of the mitigations to protection levels more quickly where provision is outdoors
Unless otherwise stated, the protective measures set out in this guidance represent the ‘core’ or standard protective measures that should be in place in all settings across all five protection levels. Where measures can be aligned with protection level these are set out in tables embedded in this document.
It is important to make clear that Level 0 or below is not a return to normal. It is still too soon to specify if and when that would happen. We will keep under constant review the potential to remove any specific mitigations, depending on the data and evidence.
The Advisory Sub-group on Education and Children’s Issues considered the data and evidence surrounding the start of the new academic term on Tuesday 7 September. In light of very high case rates and current evidence on the state of the pandemic, the sub-group recommended retaining the mitigations set out in this guidance at this time. It is expected that this revised guidance will remain in place until at least the October holidays – the position thereafter will be informed by regular reviews of the data and evidence by the advisory sub-group. Implementation and adherence to these measures is essential to ensuring the ongoing safety of children and young people, as well as the staff who have worked hard to keep settings open.
On a regular basis, and particularly where there is a move between levels, childminding settings should review their implementation of this guidance, and ensure compliance with core and additional public health measures.
Community risk will continue to be monitored and managed by local health protection teams who will advise on how to respond. To allow them to do this effectively local health protection teams rely on cases being reported to them as soon as possible. ELC setting have an important responsibility to contact their local health protection team immediately if there is:
- any suspicion that there may be an outbreak of cases, i.e. two or more confirmed cases in 14 days
- or an increase in the background rate of absence due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19
Health Protection Scotland has published information about how to contact your local health protection team. Childminders must also notify the Care Inspectorate in the event of a suspected case and all confirmed cases of COVID. Notifications and guidance are available through eForms.
In the event of a local community outbreak and/or an outbreak in an ELC setting, at any protection level, settings may be asked by the local health protection team to implement additional restrictions, beyond those set out in this guidance, for a defined period of time. There may also be circumstances in which, based on clear evidence and public health considerations, specific settings require to close for a defined period of time. All such decisions will be made in line with the independent advice of local Directors of Public Health, who will take account of wider public health considerations according to their statutory duties. To keep children and staff in ELC settings safe and to reduce risk in the wider community, it is essential that settings follow any advice from their local health protection team.
The measures put in place in wider society at different levels of the Strategic Framework have been designed to reduce community transmission sufficiently to allow schools and regulated childcare settings to remain open safely.