Publication - Minutes

Early Learning and Childcare Joint Delivery Board minutes: October 2020

Published: 25 Nov 2020
Date of meeting: 7 Oct 2020

Minutes of the meeting of the ELC Joint Delivery Board, held on 7 October 2020.

Published:
25 Nov 2020
Early Learning and Childcare Joint Delivery Board minutes: October 2020

Attendees and apologies

Attendees:

Members [M]:

  • Maree Todd, Minister for CYP (Chair)
  • Councillor Stephen McCabe, COSLA Spokesperson CYP 
  • Alison Cumming, SG Interim Director of ELC Programme
  • Eddie Follan, Chief Officer Children and Young People
  • Roy Brannen, Chief Executive Transport Scotland
  • Simon Mair, SG Head of Delivery Assurance
  • Laura Mason, Chief Education Officer, West Dunbartonshire Council, ADES Gary Fairley, Midlothian, Representing Directors of Finance 

Additional attendees:

  • Adam Hall, Improvement Service
  • Ann Jacob-Chandler, Scottish Futures Trust
  • Ellen Leaver, ELC Unit Head, Scottish Government
  • Hannah Keates, ELC Team Leader, Scottish Government
  • Leona Devlin, ELC Delivery Assurance Officer, Scottish Government
  • Sheree McAlpine, Communications and Engagement Manager, Scottish Government

Apologies:

  • Karen Reid, Perth and Kinross Council, SOLACE  
  • Matthew Sweeney, COSLA

Items and actions

Agenda

  • welcome and introductions - Ms Maree Todd, Chair
  • review minutes from previous meetings (012) - Ms Maree Todd, Chair
  • 1140 Delivery Status (013/14) - Simon Mair, Head of Delivery Assurance
  • proposal for reinstatement of duty (015) - Simon Mair, Head of Delivery Assurance
  • AOB - Ms Maree Todd, Chair
  • wrap up session with officials - Alison Cumming, Interim Director of ELC Programme

Welcome and introductions

Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced our new member on behalf of Director of Finance – Gary Fairley. The chair thanked Gary for joining the board and thanked Laura Friel for her time and input to the ELC Joint Delivery Board.

Review minutes 

The minutes from the previous meeting (012) were approved by the Board.

1140 delivery status

Simon Mair introduced this paper in relation to on-going engagement with councils on their delivery of 1140 and remaining challenges that they are facing. The data progress report sets out local authority returns from August 2020 and indicates there was significant movement in terms of the key data measured over the year-to-date, although provision did not meet the forecast for August 2020.

Delivery progress update

  • at their previous meeting the Board requested an early data collection to take place using the new collection framework that was agreed by correspondence. The report presented here shows the results of that collection
  • it was noted that the data collection did not ask councils to forecast their future delivery as COVID-19 may have necessitated updated plans
  • following the suspension of the statutory duty on local authorities to provide 1140 hours of ELC in response to COVID-19, this data collection aims to provide a point-in-time view of the ELC sector as it reopens in August 2020
  • data returned by local authorities indicates that 93,438 children were accessing funded ELC as of the end of August 2020
  • of these, 74,870 children (80%) were accessing more than the statutory entitlement of 600 hours, and 56,697 children (61%) were accessing 1140 hours funded ELC
  • the local authority ELC workforce is reported to have increased by 6,575 FTE since academic year 2016 - 2017
  • delivery of the expansion in these key indicators has surpassed the pre-COVID forecasted position for April 2020 but has not reached the pre-COVID forecasted position for September 2020
  • funded providers and childminders provide 28% of all funded provision, but 34% of all 1140 provision. 74% of children who access most of their hours with funded providers are accessing 1140 hours
  • variability at the local level remains a key feature of the progress of expansion and is also seen amongst levels of funded provision offered upon reopening
  • local authorities note that the offer of 1140 can be extended to more children throughout the academic year as recruitment and infrastructure programmes become further advanced, both of which have been impacted by restrictions associated with COVID-19

Infrastructure update

Prior to construction activity being suspended at the beginning of April in response to COVID-19, it was forecast that around 800 of the 911 capital projects in the programme would have been completed by now.

There were 187 projects scheduled to be delivering a further 7,040 spaces that were in construction as of March 2020 when construction activities were suspended across sites in Scotland. The value of the projects on site was in the order of £197m. A further 333 projects delivering 8,307 spaces were yet to start construction. 

Following the issue of the Construction Scotland Site Re-start Model on the 28th of May 2020, ELC construction projects resumed activities in the order advised to. There have been delays to all projects in construction and in development. The average delay on construction sites appears to be around 6 months but they vary widely across projects. Local authorities have now developed or are in the process of developing refreshed infrastructure programmes. The programme now shows a phased introduction of additional spaces between October 2020 and August 2021. Many refurbishment projects planned for the summer holiday period have been rescheduled for next summer.

The forecast out-turn capital spend on the ELC programme is currently in the order of £569m. SFT will provide a further update on capital costs at the Finance Working Group meeting in October.

Key points of discussion:

  • the Board were very heartened to see the progress that has been made and noted that the criticality of infrastructure is one of the key barriers for reinstatement of the 1140 statutory duty
  • it was a very difficult decision in June to suspend the expansion of the statutory duty, but it’s a very positive picture being reported and the councils and providers should be commended for achieving this in such challenging circumstances
  • the group noted that the  ELC Finance Working Group are carrying out a data collection with councils on their projection of spend for 2020-21 on ELC and how funding flexibilities have been deployed to meet COVID-19 costs
  • it was requested that a more detailed paper on infrastructure and progress, particularly around the projects that are critical for delivery, be brought to the next meeting 
  • it was noted that the contingency plans set out by councils pre-covid might no longer be feasible due to COVID-19 and further analysis from SFT would assist the Board’s understanding of these issues

The board were happy with the recommendations and agreed the paper.  

Actions:

  • a more detailed paper on infrastructure and progress, particularly around the projects that are critical for delivery and status of contingency plans – SFT

Proposal for reinstatement of duty (015)

Simon Mair introduced this paper that lays out the proposal for reinstatement of the 1140 statutory duty. The board has committed to making a decision on the timing of reinstatement by the end of the year. Feedback from Councils suggests early notification of the date of the duty would be beneficial, particularly with regard to application and allocation processes, which typically take place in January to March. It should be noted that reinstatement will require Parliament to pass a statutory instrument. It is recommended that the date of the board meeting should be considered to ensure the timely laying and approval of legislation, before Parliament rises in March. These factors would point to the Joint Delivery Board reaching a view on a new implementation date by the end of the year.  

An initial meeting of the Delivery Steering Group was held on Friday 2 October to discuss approaches to information sharing and supporting the reinstatement. It is proposed that this group, made up of Scottish and Local Government colleagues would undertake an initial review of local authority evidence and provide advice to the JDB(O) on the development of recommendations.

JDB(O) are also asked to consider the input of an independent third party or critical friend to support the assessment process.

While infrastructure programmes are well understood, forecasts for remaining workforce expansion were last refreshed in September 2019 so now need to be reviewed. It is therefore proposed that a small scale data collection take place, specifically targeting this area. Improvement Service have been looking at this and will circulate a proposal for comment. 

Key points from discussion:

  • the Board were supportive of the direction of travel, subject to the caveats of the barriers mentioned in the paper
  • critical friend would introduce the scrutiny and challenge without any bias along with providing a light touch review. Scottish Government will look further into scope of this to be agreed with COSLA
  • it was agreed that a more in-depth data collection from councils specifically on workforce should be carried out to support and complement the August data collection
  • it was requested that when collecting key data the exercise is designed to minimise any burden on local councils

The Board agreed the proposals for a timeline and agreed to a data collection proposal from IS.

Actions:

  • a more in-depth data collection from councils specifically on workforce should be carried out to support and complement the August data collection - IS

AOB

The board members agreed that there would be an intermediate officials meeting in advance of the November officials meeting. It was discussed that risk should be a standing item on the agenda and the risk register should be circulated prior to the next meeting.

The next Joint Delivery Board to take place in line with the proposed timeline, in November.