CRWIA - key questions considered
1. Which UNCRC Articles are relevant to the policy/measure? List all relevant Articles of the UNCRC and Optional Protocols.
The UNCRC Articles set out in the 2019 CRWIA remain relevant to the reinstatement of the legislative duty to deliver 1140 hours of funded ELC to eligible children. These Articles are as follows.
Article 2 - Non-discrimination
Article 3 - Best Interests of the child
Article 5 - Parental Guidance and a child's evolving capacities
Article 6 - Life, survival, and development
Article 12 - Respect for the views of the child
Article 18 - Parental responsibilities and state assistance
Article 23 - Children with disabilities
Article 28 - Right to education
Article 29 - Goals of Education
Article 31 - Leisure, play, and culture
2. What impact will the policy/measure will have on children's rights?
The positive impacts of the reinstatement of the duty to provide 1140 hours of funded ELC for eligible children from August 2021 on children's rights set out in the 2019 CRWIA remain current and relevant. These include: improvements in children's cognitive development; maximising the time children spend with their parents and carers; and providing economic benefits over time through facilitating parents' and carers' opportunities to work or study.
Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020, these positive impacts on children's rights are even more relevant. There is evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on some children's rights in Scotland. The independent CRIA completed by the Observatory of Children's Human Rights Scotland explored the impact of policy changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on children's rights. This identified impacts across a range of UNCRC Articles covering areas such as physical and mental health, education, poverty, food and digital access and play. The reinstatement of the legislative duty will mitigate many of these impacts. This will have positive impacts on several UNCRC Articles, including: Article 2 - Non-discrimination; Article 3 - Best Interests of the child; Article 6 - Life, survival, and development; Article 12 - Respect for the views of the child; Article 28 - Right to education; Article 29 - Goals of Education; and Article 31 - Leisure, play, and culture.
Children may also have presented at ELC with new support needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, although we have not yet seen this in available evidence. For instance, data from the 2020 ELC census shows that 1% of children registered for ELC had a declared disability and 14% of children were assessed as having an additional support need, in line with figures for the previous year. However, the reinstatement of the legislative duty, along with the implementation of minimum National Standards that settings will be required to meet to provide funded ELC, will ensure that any new support needs are effectively addressed. Under the National Standard, providers of funded ELC must comply with the duties under the Equality Act 2010 and the setting must be willing to provide appropriate support, including making any reasonable changes to the care and learning environment, to ensure that children's additional support needs do not create a barrier to them accessing a full range of experiences and meets their individual needs. In turn there will be positive impacts on Article 23 - Children with disabilities.
We know that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a slight decrease in the percentage of children accessing their funded ELC entitlement. Data from the Scottish Government's ELC census published in December 2020 shows that 95% of eligible three and four year olds were registered for funded ELC, down from 98% the previous year, and that 9% of two year olds were registered, down from 11% in 2019. The decrease in the uptake of funded ELC this year may be due to the effects of COVID-19, with some parents choosing not to register their children. There are a number of reasons that this may be the case, including that parents do not currently feel confident to send their child to an ELC setting during the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of non-representative Scottish parent surveys undertaken over summer 2020 show reasonable levels of parental concern about children returning to school (approximately 50%), especially among single parents. The Public Health Scotland (PHS) COVID-19 Early years resilience and impact survey (CEYRIS) found that just under half of parents of 2-7 year olds surveyed in June-July 2020 were concerned about their child becoming ill with coronavirus (41%) or their passing coronavirus to someone else (49%). The Scottish Government has sought to mitigate this impact by continuing to engage parents on the benefits of ELC, including through Parent Club, which links directly to local authority ELC pages.
Reinstating the expanded legislative duty, along with associated parental communications activity to encourage uptake, will seek to address any parental concerns around enrolment. In turn, this will have positive impacts on the UNCRC Articles outlined above, as well as Article 18 - Parental responsibilities and state assistance and Article 5 - Parental Guidance and a child's evolving capacities.
3. Will there be different impacts on different groups of children and young people?
The groups of children who will be affected by the reinstatement of the legislative duty to deliver 1140 hours of funded ELC remain the same as in the 2019 CRWIA. These are all 3 and 4 year olds, and eligible 2 year olds. The eligibility criteria for 2 year olds are based on evidence that those children experiencing the most disadvantage will particularly benefit from access to high quality ELC. They include eligibility for a range of state benefits, tax credits or a child's looked after status. We anticipate there will be significant changes to the number and spread of families in receipt of 'qualifying benefits' as a result of the pandemic. This may in turn lead to an increase in the proportion of 2 year olds who are eligible for a funded place. Reinstating the legislative duty will have particular benefits for these children.
As noted above, to encourage attendance the Scottish Government will engage parents on the benefits of ELC. We also continue to work across service boundaries to improve access to information for parents and carers to help them make informed decisions about ELC (including through services they already access including Best Start payments and the Health Visiting Pathway). We are continuing to work with national and local government to support increasing uptake and awareness of the 2 year old funded entitlement through securing a legal gateway and data sharing agreement so that local authorities in Scotland can have access to accurate information on their eligible population.
4. If a negative impact is assessed for any area of rights or any group of children and young people, what options have you considered to modify the proposal, or mitigate the impact?
5. How will the policy/measure contribute to the wellbeing of children and young people in Scotland?
The ELC expansion policy will support public bodies in Scotland to meet their duties to safeguard, support and promote the wellbeing of children in their area. As set out in the 2019 CRWIA, the expansion will ensure that all of the SHANARRI indicators (safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible, included) are met.
Similarly to children's rights, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, these positive impacts on children's wellbeing are even more important. There is evidence that the wider context of the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on some children's wellbeing in Scotland. For instance, Public Health Scotland's COVID-19 Early Years Resilience and Impact Survey (CEYRIS) explored how the pandemic and associated restrictions have affected children's lives. The survey is based on the views of parents of 2-7 year olds. Although the findings should be treated with some caution, as they are not based on a representative sample of parents, they do provide indicative evidence of the views of a large cohort of parents in Scotland. The CEYRIS findings show that restrictions related to COVID-19 have impacted negatively on a range of aspects of children's lives, including play, behaviour, mood and physical activity. The findings highlight that families on lower incomes were generally more negatively affected by COVID-19 restrictions. These included single-adult households, larger families and families with a long-term health condition. Children in these families, on average, were more likely to have behavioural concerns identified than across almost all of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire domains (peer problems, conduct, hyperactivity and emotional problems) than children in other families.
As set out above, the planned re-implementation of the legislative duty will help to mitigate any impacts, such as those outlined above, on children not realising any of the SHANARRI indicators as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
6. How will the policy/measure give better or further effect to the implementation of the UNCRC in Scotland?
The duty on education authorities to provide 1140 hours to eligible children from August 2021 will continue to address the following recommendation made by the UN committee in its concluding observations on the implementation of the UNCRC in the UK: 'Taking note of target 4.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals, on access to quality early childhood development services, allocate sufficient human, technical and financial resources for the development and expansion of early childhood care and education, based on a comprehensive and holistic policy of early childhood development, with special attention to the children in the most vulnerable situations'.
7. What evidence have you used to inform your assessment? What does it tell you?
We have reflected the information gathered through research, statistical evidence and data, and information provided by colleagues across the Scottish Government. Footnotes are provided throughout.
8. Have you consulted with relevant stakeholders?
The 2019 CRWIA drew on an extensive range of consultation on the expansion of funded ELC. This included consulting with local government, ELC providers, public bodies and regulators, voluntary organisations, and parents and carers. This consultation remains valid in informing the reinstatement of the 1140 statutory duty. We have not consulted specifically on this CRWIA but ongoing discussions have informed its creation. Throughout the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish Government has supported local authorities to continue to deliver/work towards the delivery of 1140 hours of funded ELC. The ELC Strategy and Delivery Unit has engaged with local authorities to understand the impact that the pandemic has had on delivery plans. This engagement has informed the new delivery date of August 2021.
9. Have you involved children and young people in the development of the policy/measure?
The 2019 CRWIA was largely informed by engagement with organisations that represent children and families' interests. This engagement remains valid. Given the pace of decision-making, limited resource and limitations of ongoing restrictions, we have not directly involved children in the development of this CRWIA. However, we have drawn on a range of available up to date research and evidence, including the views of children. This evidence has been footnoted above.
1. Funding follows the child and the national standard for early learning and childcare providers: principles and practice
5. Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland 2020
6. Independent Children's Rights Impact Assessment for children
7. Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland 2020
9 Coronavirus (COVID-19): impact on children, young people and families - evidence summary September 2020
11 Help paying for childcare
12 COVID-19 Early Years Resilience and Impact Survey (CEYRIS) Report 4 - full findings
13 Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
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