Early Learning and Childcare Joint Delivery Board minutes: September 2021
- Early Learning and Childcare Directorate
- Part of
- Children and families
Minutes from the group's meeting on Tuesday 28 September 2021.
Attendees and apologies
- Stephen McCabe, COSLA Spokesperson for Children and Young People (Co-Chair)
- Clare Haughey MSP, Minister for Children and Young People (Co-Chair)
- Alison Cumming, Director, Early Learning and Childcare, Scottish Government
- Eleanor Passmore, Deputy Director, Early Learning and Childcare, Scottish Government
- Simon Mair, Head of Delivery Assurance, Scottish Government
- Chris Dunne, Head of Operations and Assurance, Scottish Government
- Eddie Follan, Chief Officer Children and Young People, COSLA
- Peter Macleod, Chief Executive, Care Inspectorate
- Matthew Sweeney, Policy Officer, COSLA
- Adam Hall, Improvement Service
- Ann Jacob-Chandler, Scottish Futures Trust
- Clare Furze, SG Head of Parents, Providers and Workforce Unit
- Hannah Keates, ELC Team Leader, Scottish Government
- Andrew Burke, ELC Delivery Assurance, Scottish Government
- Ann Jacob-Chandler, Scottish Futures Trust
- Roy Brannen, Chief Executive, Transport Scotland, Non-executive member
- Laura Mason, Chief Education Officer at West Dunbartonshire Council, representing ADES
- Margo Williamson, Chief Executive, Angus Council, representing SOLACE
Items and actions
Welcome and introductions
The Chair welcomed members to the meeting.
Introduction and matters arising
The minutes of the previous meeting (21 July 2021) were agreed by the group.
Under matters arising, it was noted that the SG officials had proposed at the previous meeting to present papers on uptake and a lessons learned exercise at the September JDB meeting, but that these were not on the agenda for the meeting. SG officials explained that papers on these topics had been discussed at the Officials Subgroup meeting on 22 September:
- On uptake, the Subgroup had noted that as the Improvement Service data was very new, and that further analysis would be required before uptake patterns could be understood properly, a paper on uptake would be tabled at a future JDB meeting, once this analysis had taken place. Delaying the paper will also enable officials to consider census data alongside the Improvement Service data, to better identify any systemic issues.
- On the lessons learned exercise, the Subgroup had agreed that ADES and SOLACE input would be required before the scope and methods of this exercise could be firmed up. Officials will be following this up and will bring a proposal for a lessons learned exercise forward to the JDB by correspondence.
SG officials to set up discussion with COSLA, ADES and SOLACE to firm up proposals.
1140 delivery update
Simon Mair presented the 1140 Delivery Update paper (045). Key points:
- The Evidence of Delivery Exercise undertaken by the Improvement Service has given us confidence that all 32 local authorities are offering 1140 hours to all eligible children, and that ‘day 1’ (18 August) delivery was achieved.
- Work will now continue to ensure that the expansion continues and that the benefits of the expansion are properly embedded within local authorities.
- The Scottish Government is considering how best to continue its support for councils to implement the expanded offer. We expect that the level and type of support required will vary between councils, and will be determined by the detail and shape of delivery in each council area.
Adam Hall presented the Delivery Progress Summary Report (046), a brief summary of the headline figures that will be published in the full report. Key points included:
- In late August, just under 91,000 children were accessing funded ELC. 97% of these were accessing more than 600 hours, and 87% were accessing 1140 hours, a significant increase on the 72% accessing 1140 hours in April 2021.
- Although not presented in the report or analysed in detail, the data received from local authorities shows variation in uptake at the local level. We will be examining this in further detail in the coming weeks.
- There is a year-on-year increase of 26% in the number of two-year-olds accessing funded ELC. Of the nearly 6,000 two-year-olds in receipt of funded ELC, 72% are receiving 1140 hours.
- 32% of the funded provision is provided by the PVI sector and childminders.
- Local authority workforce has seen an 83% increase since 2016, with just over 17,500 FTE in August 2021. Around 60% of these are Practitioners. The workforce is expected to continue to rise to 18,300+ by the end of the academic year.
- As of August 2021, there were 912 projects in the capital programme which will deliver c. 22,000 additional spaces. 81% of all capital projects are now complete, delivering 73% of the total planned additional space.
Discussion focused on the following themes:
Variability in uptake at the local level
The Board wanted to explore any reasons identified for this, noting that analysis is still at a very early stage. In particular, Board members commented that although we can be confident that all local authorities are offering 1140 hours, we need to understand why not all families are accessing 1140 hours. Some families will of course be accessing a lower amount through choice, but it is important we establish whether some families are unable to access the full 1140 hours due to (for example) offers not being suitable for the needs of families. The Board further noted that there has always been a recognition that local authorities (and individual providers) cannot always offer any pattern of provision that a family asks for.
Officials explained that we know that many families do indeed take up only a part of the offer through choice. However, based on conversations with some local authorities in recent months, we think that there are a number of factors contributing to the variability across local authorities. These are not likely to be consistent across the country, and we expect to find differences in factors between (for example) urban and rural authorities. Enrolment and uptake have changed over the period of the pandemic, and some local authorities have mentioned impacts of home working and demographic changes.
The work to analyse the data will include discussion with local authorities to understand better what local or regional factors have impacted on uptake, helping to contextualise the data submitted to the Improvement Service by local authorities. Census data will also be examined. Officials agreed to keep the JDB updated on this work.
Expansion in local authority staffing
The Board wanted to understand whether this increase in local authority staffing has had an impact on PVI provider staffing. On this point, officials confirmed that the SSSC census shows that PVI workforce has been reducing while local authority has risen. This risk is included in the Programme risk register also.
In concluding this item, the Board noted that the Improvement Service would be publishing the full report on 4 October.
National projects update
Eleanor Passmore introduced paper 047, with Board interest focussing on SEEMiS. Key points made by officials were:
- The local authority led project board has agreed a rectification plan put forward by the supplier to learn lessons and identify a realistic way forward.
- The rectification plan is in place and the anticipated go live date is now July 2022. The Scottish Government is leading on recommendations which are individually owned by the delivery team, and SG officials will be able to raise issues by exception where recommendations are not progressing to plan.
- Local authorities are continuing to share information on how contingencies can continue to be used until SEEMiS goes live.
- Work has been undertaken to identify strands of work that will be impacted by the SEEMiS delays. Expansion evaluation, and in particular, the census, will be impacted.
The Board suggested that a representative of SEEMiS should be invited to attend the next JDB meeting to enable direct line of sight between the Board and the project.
SEEMiS representative to be invited to the next JDB meeting.
It was also agreed that Scottish Government and COSLA officials would meet to discuss the project in more detail.
Hannah Keates presented paper 048, explaining that as most of the 1140 Delivery Risk Register risks are now closed, this risk register will be closed also, with any remaining open risks transferred to the main Programme Risk Register. The Officials’ Subgroup meeting on 22 September had considered paper 048 and noted that the programme risk on workforce displacement may now be better expressed as a recruitment and retention risk, rather than an issue of displacement. This risk will therefore be reframed in the Programme Risk Register.
This was noted by the Board without discussion.
2022 funding update
Simon Mair provided a verbal update on 2022-3 funding, noting that Board members will be aware of ongoing discussion on funding and distribution mechanisms. A funding agreement for one year is being developed, to recognise the impacts of COVID, and as set out in recent correspondence between Ministers and Cllr McCabe and Cllr MacGregor, Ministers will make a decision on funding as early as possible. Ministers have recognised need to look at this funding agreement in the context of pressures on local authority budgets and in the context of budget setting process.
This was noted by the Board without discussion.
Funding Follows the Child
Clare Furze presented paper 49 on the Financial Sustainability Health Check, inviting the Board to note the findings of the Health Check and sustainable rates data collection, and drawing the Board’s attention to the following points:
- All parts of the sector have been impacted by COVID, with school-age childcare the most significantly affected and two thirds of childminding businesses reporting impacts also. Impacts on ELC services that deliver the funded entitlement have been less acute, although a number of issues have been reported.
- All services are reporting increases in the cost of delivering services since March 2020. The average cost of delivering ELC to 3-5 year olds in funded ELC services is estimated to have increased by around 10% since March 2020.
- Overall levels of demand (measured by occupancy levels) for all types of services were lower than March 2020. The largest declines have been in SAC services. At the time of the survey, 8% of services were operating at 75% occupancy or more compared to 67% in March 2020.
- Services have reported that there is still significant reliance on government financial support schemes, and there is concern at the ending of the UK Government Coronavirus job retention scheme.
The data collection on local authority sustainable rates, also published in August, found that:
- Of the 30 local authorities who have confirmed rates for 2021-22, 10 have increased their hourly rates in comparison with 2020-21 (although only 9 authorities increased rates for both 2 year olds and 3-5 year olds), 19 have kept the same rates as in 2020-21, and 1 local authority has decreased their rate for eligible 2 year olds.
- Local authorities who have confirmed rates for 2021-22 report that from August 2021, rates for delivering an hour of funded ELC for 3-5 year olds will vary from £5.21 to £6.40.
The average rate across those local authorities who have confirmed rates for 2021-22 is £5.44 per hour.
The Board welcomed the papers, noting that some of the findings of the Health Check are in line with expectations, and that central and local government need to ensure that appropriate support is offered to the sector.
The Board discussed issues around the setting of sustainable rates, noting that many local authorities are reporting capacity issues and that local authorities need to work in partnership with local providers to get the processes right. COSLA officers reported to the Board that there has already been some discussion among local authorities about handling of this, and that ADES colleagues are likely to be invited to become involved also.
COSLA officers also raised the importance of recognising the relationship between the quantum of the funding agreement and the setting of sustainable rates.
Clare Furze then presented paper 50, on progress to the full implementation of Funding Follows the Child (FFtC):
- It was the Scottish Government and CoSLA’s intention that FFtC (and National Standard) would come into effect at the same time as the 1140 hours statutory duty, but their full implementation has been delayed in the context of the pandemic. Instead, interim guidance was published in July 2020 and updated in March 2021, giving local authorities more flexibility in how to implement the framework.
- Officials will present a paper to the Board in December with a recommendation on the timing of a move to the full framework. The Board is responsible for deciding when we will move to the full framework.
- The Scottish Government is about to conduct a survey of local authorities to inform this work. We are mindful of the need to minimise the burden on local authorities but it is a necessary step in ensuring that the Board can be presented with an informed position in December.
The Board noted this paper without discussion.
Any Other Business
Hannah Keates presented paper 051 on proposals for future meetings, setting out the proposed programme of Joint Delivery Board and Officials’ Subgroup meetings until May 2022. Hannah also noted that further items can be added to meeting agendas by correspondence if necessary.
The proposals were agreed by the Board.
The Chair thanked attendees and closed the meeting.
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