Women in Agriculture Taskforce: final report
The final report of the Women in Agriculture Taskforce.
5. Childcare in Rural Areas
An innovative, flexible approach to providing solutions for childcare in rural areas is essential to realising the full potential of women in agriculture and the rural economy. Access to childcare represents a key barrier for women’s participation in the agricultural industry.
- The Scottish Government and Local Authorities must increase the availability and access to formal and informal childcare in rural areas, to better enable women in the Scottish agricultural industry to engage in training, networking and to develop business opportunities.
- The Scottish Government and Local Authorities must consider how childcare services can be more closely tailored to suit demand in rural areas and costed accordingly.
- The Scottish Government should commission a survey to investigate the childcare needs of women and primary carers living or working in agriculture and rural areas. This should include both childminding and child sitting as distinct and different services, and also address out of hours services.
- Outcomes of the childcare in rural areas survey should include mapping how many nurseries, childminders, nannies and au pairs there are in rural Scotland, choice of services, accessibility (e.g. by public transport) and how provision is delivered at a local level. The survey should also evaluate the types of service needed by mothers and child carers, including out of hours and distance to the closest service provider. The Scottish Government should identify the need for differing levels – and therefore costs – of different types of childcare.
- As a rural area which has recently received government funding, the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP) should be approached to facilitate workshops to develop new and innovative ways of meeting rural childcare and child-sitting needs and to pilot some of these in conjunction with Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The evaluation of this work should be shared with other stakeholders and Local Authorities.
- The Scottish Government already ensure that Early Learning Care is delivered to all children in Scotland by appropriately trained individuals. However, the Scottish Government should conduct research into the demand for quality child-sitting services in rural areas, with a view to developing a suitable qualification for providers of this service. This will enable supply and demand to be more aligned, to deliver relevant childcare services outwith the existing provision for children in rural areas.
- The Scottish Government should develop an Early Learning and Childcare and Learning Brief to assist parents in rural areas by outlining their statutory entitlements to Early Learning and Childcare.
Key Taskforce discussion and supporting research
The Taskforce view childcare in rural areas as a broad issue but one that primarily impacts on women. It is recognised that formal and informal networks are commonly used, often with a heavy reliance on extended family members such as grandparents.
In the 2017 research, the need for women to prioritise childcare was identified as a key barrier: 54% of respondents identified the need to prioritise childcare as limiting their potential to advance their farm roles, and 13% stated that they had to prioritise childcare over agricultural organisation leadership. About 48% of survey respondents agreed that, “Current agricultural education opportunities are not well suited to the needs of parents”, suggesting there is a need for greater flexibility and for appropriate childcare during training provision.
It was demonstrated that the picture of childcare provision in rural Scotland is unclear. We believe that surveying and raising the profile of the specific needs of childcare within the agricultural industry will encourage open discussion both within families and the wider community as to how this may be best achieved, and ultimately increase the supply for those who need it. A survey will also assist training providers, who should align with local childcare in rural areas, to ensure that women and primary carers are more able to attend training.
Agricultural households need child-sitting outside of standard working hours (i.e. in the evenings and early mornings during peak periods, such as lambing or harvest), whereas child-minding aimed at early learning is appropriate during the day. Flexible, wrap-around childcare is needed to support non-standard or seasonal working patterns: childcare before and after school, weekends and holidays.
Consideration was given to requiring agricultural training providers to align with local childcare provision, but we recognised the practical challenges for small scale providers. We feel it is important for families to actively discuss the issue of childcare, to ensure all members involved in the business are able to participate in training and development opportunities and so maximise their potential.
Affordable, accessible childcare in rural areas can be key to facilitating parents and carers to be more economically active. Childcare in rural areas can also provide real business and employment opportunities across the country, for individuals, businesses and social enterprises. However, low household incomes can make it difficult for parents to pay for childcare, and they may also be unaware of the current financial assistance available to them. Accordingly, we recommend that the Scottish Government develop an Early Childcare and Learning Brief to assist parents in rural areas by outlining their statutory entitlements to Early Learning and Childcare.
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