Enforcement, Sanctions and Monitoring
With any public spending, the Scottish Government has a responsibility to develop and maintain records of expenditure which may be required by Audit Scotland, Ministers and also be available for any public interest. However, in order to keep this reporting process as streamlined and proportionate as possible Scottish Government have explored using existing platforms where appropriate. Monitoring and reporting platforms will be designed in collaboration with COSLA and the wider sector to ensure the necessary information is asked in order to evaluate expenditure and delivery in practice. The below highlights how and why monitoring and reporting of funds received could take place.
Local authorities will be responsible for completing monitoring procedures on an annual basis. To reduce risk of financial exposure of upfront payments, the maximum length of any "payment period" (which may be determined as a prescribed Ministerial function delegated to a local authority) in the Regulations is one year (or less).
Additionally, the Regulations provide local authorities the power to require childcare providers to provide information for monitoring purposes. Information may include including its status as a childcare provider, the number of eligible children enrolled with the childcare provider during any specified period, records of attendance in relation to any eligible child during any specified period, the eligibility of a child; the entitlement of a child; the benefit provided or expected to be provided to a child (proof of purchases upon request by way of receipts, invoices, contracts etc. to correlate with the amount they are receiving through the Scheme) and any other relevant information which the Scottish Ministers reasonably require in order to administer the Scheme. Local authorities will have control over an appropriate selection process and not every setting will be subject to a monitoring procedure on an annual basis.
The Regulations provide for information obtained by local authorities (in their delegated capacity) in connection with the Scheme between local authorities and Social Work Improvement Scotland.
Social Work Improvement Scotland can provide to a local authority on request limited recorded information in its possession such as the name and address of a childcare provider; the age groups to which a childcare provider provides services and the types of day care a childcare provider provides which may be used by local authorities to target its monitoring functions.
Enforcement and Sanctions
The Regulations create two offences under the following provisions of the Social Security Act 1992 under –
- section 12 ( for making a false representation for obtaining payment); and
- section 13 (failing to comply with Regulation 14, by failing to notify the local authority of its change circumstances affecting its eligibility under the Scheme.
These Offences were mirrored on those established under The Welfare Foods (Best Start Foods) (Scotland) Regulations 2019 which were also considered appropriate and proportionate.
Additionally, the Regulations provide for the following actions to be taken by a local authority in its delegated capacity where a childcare provider has failed to provide a benefit under the Scheme –
- reduce the amount payable in forthcoming payment period; or
- take any other action it considers reasonable in all the circumstances
Evaluation in Practice
The Care Inspectorate are willing to provide information to help evaluate the Scheme in practice by utilising the existing ELC Annual Returns platform which each childcare setting is required to submit in December of each year. These returns will incorporate questions on the new Scheme but will be light touch and will seek information if the setting is part of the Scheme; type of day care provider they are; if they offer milk and a snack; how milk and a snack is received; and any other feedback on the new Scheme's performance. This will help identify any underlying issues that may need to be addressed, as well as assessing the uptake. Including this evaluation process provides the opportunity for direct feedback from each setting.