Early learning and childcare expansion - learning and wellbeing project: EQIA
Potential impacts of early learning and childcare expansion policy on the outcomes of children with protected characteristics.
Recommendations and Conclusion
This EQIA process did not identify any direct or indirect unlawful discrimination though the policy intention to increase the number of funded hours to 1140 per year for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds. This process identified a number of areas where the policy can help to advance equality of outcomes for children with a protected characteristic. It is expected that the expanded hours of ELC will help to promote good relations between those with and without a protected characteristic. We expect that more ELC settings will benefit from having a wider range of young children, including children with a protected characteristic. This means there is the opportunity for relationships between children with and without a protected characteristic to flourish at a young age.
The expansion programme is supported by a benefits realisation strategy and the Scottish Survey of Early Learning and Childcare (SSELC) which is a cross sectional and longitudinal study that will evaluate the expansion of the funded entitlement to 1140 hours. There are a number of areas in which the SSELC will support the identification of any inequalities of outcome for children with some protected characteristics. The SSELC collects information related to gender, ethnicity and limiting long term illness, based on the Scottish Government’s recommended questions for identifying respondents who may have rights under the Equality Act 2010. The SSELC also collects information on household income and parental economic activity. Postcode information will allow for analysis of any variation in child and parent outcomes related to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) and rurality.
The forthcoming individual child-level ELC census will help to fill some of the data gaps identified through this EQIA process. We recognise that not having ELC census data on some protected characteristics, limits our ability to assess how ELC impacts on the outcomes of a wider range of children. As a result of the transformation project, we will collect a wider range of characteristics data on children accessing funded ELC, including: sex, ethnicity, disability status, whether a child has any additional support needs, and the home postcode of the child (to enable analysis by the SIMD).
Further to this the upcoming review of the ELC Inclusion Fund will help to explore if there are any ELC provision gaps for children with disabilities and/or additional support needs that the Scottish Government could help local delivery teams to address.
For the positive impacts on children’s outcomes to be realised we need to ensure that the policy intention is delivered in partnership with local authorities and ELC settings across Scotland.
How well the expansion of funded ELC helps to ‘eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, and promote good relations for families with a protected characteristic’ will be particularly influenced by local implementation. While national policy is intended to promote this, it is local authorities responsibility to design local service and so it is important that they also give due consideration to their duties under the Equalities Act 2010.
To support local impact assessments, we will host events across Scotland with local authorities to share good practice and lessons in meeting the duties of the Equalities Act 2010 within the ELC expansion. These will offer the opportunity to work with Regional Improvement Collaborative areas to consider barriers and opportunities related to the ELC expansion. We will also use other platforms to share good practice on inclusion though for example, the Knowledge Hub, the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland websites.
The Scottish Government will also continue to engage closely with stakeholders and local authorities to ensure that equalities issues in relation to children’s outcomes are considered during any policy development and implementation.
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