Scottish Firms Impact Test
Views in relation to the impact of the policy were gathered through the consultation and through engagement with a range of stakeholders and public bodies since the consultation closed as described above.
In particular, since the consultation closed, the Scottish Government had further discussions with a range of organisations including COSLA, local authorities, and stakeholders from the childcare and dairy sector along with the governance groups whose membership includes key representatives of the childcare sector and early years education to explore the implications of the policy.
The majority of stakeholders were asked questions on each of relevant area of the Scheme, including;
- How long do you think day care providers should be given to make preparations before the new Scheme comes into full effect?
- From your perspective, do you feel the design of the Scheme seems sensible and creates a more accessible route for financial support?
- Is our approach to costings reasonable and if not can you suggest alternative approaches?
- Does the funding delivery method seem logical and would this create more incentive for settings to be part of the Scheme in an effort to promote uptake of milk and healthy snacks?
- Would you be able to help the Scottish Government to promote and communicate information about the new Scheme to your members?
Stakeholders were mostly supportive of the proposals for the Scheme and have recognised that there is a need for change in order to achieve the policy objectives. The main theme was all stakeholders welcomed the commitment of financial support to the sector and the addition of fruit and vegetables to promote the health and wellbeing of our children. Other themes which arose out of these discussions were similar to those raised in the consultation itself such as the importance of accessibility and reducing the administrative burdens which deter childcare settings taking part in the UK NMS. Some stakeholders have, since the consultation, asked for consideration of preparation costs to be factored into the snack costings however, it has also been noted that many settings already provide snacks and in normal times it is part of a child's learning experience to prepare food and eat together.
In relation to implementation timescales, some organisations considered 3-4 months would allow sufficient time for the transition to the new Scheme and associated registrations required. Others pointed out the importance of allowing local authorities and settings sufficient time to prepare for the change.
Some organisations from the dairy industry agreed to the principle of the Scheme, but commented that an upfront funding approach would create too much flexibility and that appropriate monitoring procedures were important to ensure settings were spending funding from this Scheme on its intended purposes. Others pointed out a benefit of the Scheme was the Scottish Government is not only accountable for committing funding to the sector but that routing all this funding through local authorities is a more practical and streamlined approach which reduces the needs for multiple funding lines for settings to establish.
On-going engagement since May 2020 with stakeholders and local authorities has been more complex in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and Ministers took the decision to pause work on the Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme and delay implementation until August 2021. Impact assessments including further detail on the delivery of the Scheme were shared with stakeholders in December 2020.
Many stakeholders fed back that increasing uptake of free milk presents a real opportunity to reinforce positive dietary behaviour and promote the consumption of nutrients needed during critical stages of growth and development. Many welcomed the addition of the healthy snack element and were supportive of the non-dairy alternative drinks to be included to meet the needs for children who have up until now been unable to benefit from the current UK NMS.
A point that was reinforced by the dairy industry was the importance of encouraging demand for milk through the proposed Scheme, and ensuring no barriers to participation in the Scheme. It was suggested that where possible the Scottish Government should encourage the inclusion of local dairies to support Scottish primary milk producers and reduce food miles. Some stakeholders have suggested that funding for milk and snack need to be kept separate to protect the funding streams to the sector.
Feedback from the dairy industry also queried the impact of the Scheme on milk for children under 5 in schools, raising the issue that some Scottish schools currently use the UK NMS to claim for milk provided to 4 year olds in primary one. Scottish Government is clear that the scope of the new Scheme has always intended to be children in pre-school settings only, noting that complementary nutritional arrangements apply within schools. Separate regulations and guidance cover children in school settings, ensuring that children and young people are provided with balanced and nutritious food and drink, which can include milk, and funding is provided to support this approach. It is acknowledged that dairy industry contractors who currently provide schools with milk through the UK scheme will no longer be able to through the new Scheme, but this should not preclude the continuation of their wider contracts with schools.
The Scottish Government will be developing guidance to support delivery of the Scheme, and will involve stakeholders in this process, and ensure the points raised through the engagement process to date are considered as this is developed. This guidance will highlight the clear health benefits of regular consumption of dairy produce; and will seek to support local authorities and settings in their implementation of the Scheme. The Scottish Government will also continue this dialogue with stakeholder and local authorities in the development and delivery of a communications plan in support of the Scheme.