Financial sustainability health check of the childcare sector in Scotland

The financial sustainability health check has collected evidence on the sustainability of the childcare sector and the impact of COVID-19.

It has been informed by detailed surveys of childcare providers, in-depth case study interviews with providers, and analysis of trends in registration data.

Implications of COVID-19 on the operation of childcare services

15. As part of the Scottish Government’s response to the pandemic childcare services have, since March 2020, been subject to varying levels of restrictions on their operations. These have included restricting providers to only being able to offer care to children from key worker families or vulnerable children, and operating under specific public health guidance.

16. Table 1 sets out the timeline of key developments since March 2020 on the operation of childcare services in Scotland.

Table 1: Timeline of developments for operation of childcare services in Scotland

20 March 2020
  • All childcare services to close unless delivering critical childcare provision to children of key workers or to vulnerable children
3 June 2020
  • Childminding services, along with fully outdoor services, are able to reopen to operate in-line with the specific public health guidance for these services (published on 1 June 2020).
  • Key restrictions in the public health guidance included childminding services only being able to provide care for children from up to 4 different families; and effectively no blended placements.
15 July 2020
  • Day care of children services able to reopen and must operate in-line with the public health guidance for these services published on 15 June 2020.
  • Guidance placed a number of restrictions and burdens on day care of children services including the operation of small separate cohorts (sometimes referred to as bubbles), and physical adaptations to premises in particular to support social distancing.
10 August 2020
  • Revised public health guidance for day care of children services, published on 30 July 2020, takes effect.
  • Revised guidance reduces some of the restrictions in the previous guidance in particular allowing for the operation of larger separate cohorts (which would allow services to operate at higher occupancy levels).
30 October 2020
  • Updated guidance for childcare services published which aligns with the levels approach in the Strategic Framework.
7 January 2021
  • Supplementary guidance is introduced to cover the period of temporary restrictions which took effect from 26 December 2020 and applied to day care of children services (including SAC services) and childminding services providing to 12 or more children.
  • These services can only operate for children from key worker families and vulnerable children.
  • Childminding services are not subject to this guidance and continued to operate for all children during this period.
22 February 2021
  • Temporary restrictions on the operation of ELC services ends.
  • Restrictions continue for services delivering to school age children.
15 March 2021
  • Temporary restrictions end for SAC services

17. These measures have had implications for the operation of private, third and childminding sector services, including on costs of delivery, capacity and income, and on staffing. To understand the scale of these impacts the Scottish Government undertook, following the publication (on 15 June 2020) of the reopening guidance for day care of children services a survey of providers.

18. The analysis of the responses to this survey provided an important contribution to the evidence base for determining what targeted support may be required for the sector.



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