Out of school care - draft framework: consultation analysis
This is the summary report of the 2019 consultation on the draft framework for Out of School Care in Scotland. It will inform the final Framework and provide evidence for future development of School Age Childcare policy.
Making Out of School Care Accessible
The consultation sought views on how to make out of school care accessible to all families and children. In order to address this, five questions were asked:
- Q8. How can we make sure out of school care is an affordable option for more families?
- Q5. How can we help to ensure that all families have access to an out of school care place for their child/ren if they want it?
- Q9. How can services be more effectively delivered in rural/remote areas to meet the needs of families?
- Q10. How can we ensure that children with disabilities and additional support needs can access out of school care services?
- Q2. What can we do to support community based approaches to delivering out of school care?
Making Out of School Care Affordable
Q8. How can we make sure out of school care is an affordable option for more families? (e.g. subsidised provision, remove barriers in accessing benefits, help with the upfront costs)
In total, 1,126 (89%) respondents provided feedback on how to make out of school care affordable for families. Of these, 384 (34%) respondents specifically mentioned the need for subsidised provision within their response, 75 (7%) explicitly identified a need for help with upfront costs, and 47 (4%) discussed barriers in accessing benefits. A further 98 (9%) respondents indicated that all three stated options were required/would be helpful.
Subsidies/Help with Costs
As outlined above, the most common suggestions around how to ensure out of school care is affordable focused on providing help with the costs. In addition to those who specifically mentioned subsidies, many others discussed alternative forms of financial support which could be offered. Suggestions (provided by respondents across all respondent types) included:
- the introduction of funding/free childcare in line with that offered to younger children via ELC;
- affordable, subsidised and/or free spaces;
- short term assistance for parents/carers when starting a new job;
- free provision for vulnerable children and those who could be identified/referred as most in need by partner services;
- subsidised/discounted places for families with more than one child using the service;
- charging hourly or only for the time used;
- provision of a tax free/tax relief system; and
- greater acceptance of childcare vouchers and use of working tax credits across the range of out of school care services (including childminders, unregistered services and activity clubs).
There were mixed views, however, regarding whether subsidised/free places should be a universal provision, means tested, or only available to those claiming benefits. Some were keen to ensure that out of school care services were accessible for families not currently in employment in order to benefit the child(ren), while others felt that working parents/carers (particularly those on low incomes but not claiming benefits) should also receive free or subsidised places. Some indicated that a form of means testing and/or a sliding scale of subsidy would be required to ensure those earning just a little over the threshold for benefits would not be penalised:
"Parents who work and are in receipt of either Universal Credit or working tax credit can get a reasonable level of financial assistance for childcare costs… Subsidising out of school care for workless households will enable children to attend, when otherwise they may not have the opportunity. Engaging with others, mental and physical stimulation will benefit their [children's] wellbeing." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
"Subsidised places… or a set percentage paid per child, even up-front costs paid e.g. first month paid. All options could be means tested and have a sliding scale." (Organisation, OSC Provider)
Others, however, felt that any subsidy or discount should be applied universally, regardless of the parent's financial situation. Several suggested that those not in receipt of benefits should not be penalised or charged more for the same service:
"It's unfair that as a working parent there are no additional benefits for childcare but those who are unemployed or on benefits are given additional help. People shouldn't be financially penalised for trying to go back to work by having to then pay more in childcare which in some instances negates their salary entirely." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
"…offering places at a reduced cost regardless of income so it is affordable for everyone." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
Where subsidies, benefit schemes, grants or vouchers were used, a few parents/carers highlighted the need for the system to be easy and straightforward to understand and use. A few parents/carers and several OSC providers also felt that subsidies should be provided direct to the services rather than via any benefits related system which provides the funding to the parent, both to ensure simplicity of use and to ensure that childcare funds are used as intended:
"If fees/costs are subsidised it would be beneficial if the money came direct to the provider as sometimes parents spend the money on other things and this can lead to services losing money and parents in debt." (Organisation, OSC Provider)
Subsidies for the service providers were also mentioned by some respondents (largely, but not exclusively, by parents/carers, other individuals and OSC providers), including:
- help with set-up costs (for private organisations as well as capacity building for community groups, social enterprise services, and other not-for profit groups);
- the provision of subsidised rents and/or free access to local authority premises and facilities;
- help with staff costs, training needs and the cost of qualifications for staff;
- assistance to deal with rising costs, such as the real living wage, pensions, rent increases, etc.; and
- providing grants to purchase equipment, including equipment that is required to accommodate children with additional support needs.
In particular, it was noted by OSC providers and other organisations that services required consistent and reliable funding in order to provide a sustainable service. Several respondents (from across the different typologies) also highlighted that subsidies are often required for services in rural/remote areas to make them viable.
Support with Upfront Costs
The removal of, or financial support to help with the costs of deposits, registration fees and/or other upfront costs was also identified as a means of making out of school care more affordable:
"Help with upfront costs, we find deposits are a big barrier to parents." (Organisation, OSC Provider)
"Payment of first month costs and registration fees are often due up front before parent receives pay. A grant to cover this might help?" (Individual, Parent/Carer)
It was suggested that these costs can often be significant and/or prohibitive for some families, including those trying to get into work and who have not received their first wage, those with more than one child, those with fluctuating low incomes, or those on low incomes but not claiming benefits. Further, it was suggested that the way the Universal Credit system is currently implemented, with a delay in receiving the first payment, can lead to families either not being able to take up places in out of school care (or employment) as they cannot afford the upfront costs or need to take an 'advance' (or loan) to cover these initial costs.
A few respondents suggested that one practical solution may be to introduce childcare grants (similar to the Best Start Grant) to help with upfront costs.
In relation to benefits, parents/carers and other individuals generally did not discuss the barriers to accessing specific benefits, but rather identified a need to raise awareness and support/advise parents/carers on what benefits and other financial supports may be available to them. It was also suggested that Working Tax Credits should allow parents/carers to claim back childminder costs and unregistered care services such as activity clubs. Reducing the stigma attached to claiming benefits and/or receiving similar support for accessing out of school care services was also considered important, to ensure that children from deprived areas/poorer families continued to access the services. Several organisations also discussed these same issues.
Several organisations (particularly third sector/charities and OSC providers) also discussed barriers to accessing benefits. The challenges identified (by typically one or two respondents each) included:
- delays to payments;
- restrictive timescales in which to claim childcare costs;
- the need to uprate benefits to keep pace with increasing real costs of childcare;
- childcare costs paid via benefits being claimed back/paid in arrears, or covered via an 'advance' (or loan) thus leaving low income families struggling and/or being pushed into debt for the initial outlay/costs;
- limitations in the eligibility criteria for the advance/loan and cap on the amount available;
- some students being unable to access Universal Credit;
- the Flexible Support Fund which can provide assistance with upfront costs only helping those entering work but not those changing providers;
- the request to provide monthly evidence of costs often not compatible with out of school care services information/receipt provision to parents/carers;
- risks of being under/overpaid Universal Credits due to DWP errors; inaccurate information provided to claimants regarding eligibility; and
- Universal Credit rules and penalties for working additional hours making it difficult for providers to find staff to cover requirements (e.g. holiday and sickness cover).
Many respondents (across respondent groups) focussed on finding ways to lower the cost of out of school care provision. Many suggested making greater use of community facilities and facilitating low rent/free use of local authority owned spaces (typically schools, although other venues could also be considered). Greater use of volunteers, students and/or secondary school pupils interested in a career in childcare, and/or parent helpers was also suggested by several respondents (typically, although not exclusively parents/carers and other individuals) to help minimise staff costs. A parent helper system where parents/carers could offer time to help facilitate an out of school care service in return for reduced fees was also suggested by a few (both individuals and organisations). Several respondents also suggested that the non-profit/charity sector and/or local authorities should be encouraged to provide out of school care services in order to reduce costs to parents/carers.
A large number of other suggestions were provided in relation to how to make out of school care more affordable for families. Suggestions given by more than one respondent each (and often across different respondent types) included:
- removing transport barriers/costs;
- options to spread the cost and/or offer payment plans;
- providing a consistent rate/cost across the country to eliminate geographic inconsistencies, and between service types to allow parents/carers to choose the service best suited to the child's needs rather than based on affordability;
- providing volume discounts (i.e. based on the number of sessions booked or for booking a full week of holiday clubs, etc.);
- fundraising and/or support from local businesses;
- discounts for parents/carers with particular occupations, with suggestions including NHS staff, armed forces, third sector and public sector employees;
- greater transparency regarding costs, including any optional and/or ad hoc costs such as for food, trips, contributions for new equipment, etc.;
- increasing provision and allowing market forces/competition to reduce prices to parents/carers;
- extending the school day - with several suggesting that official learning time provided by teachers would remain as it is, but then classroom assistants or other out of school care staff could take over in schools to provide the additional care required; and
- increased taxes to allow costs to be subsidised.
One other theme raised by a few OSC providers was a limited funded/allocated hour's system for all children, for example, where children would be provided with three days free out of school care provision, and then parents/carers could pay for any additional provision that may be required.
Providing Universal Access
Q5. How can we help to ensure that all families have access to an out of school care place for their child/ren if they want it?
In total, 1,177 (93%) respondents provided feedback on how to ensure all families have access to out of school care if they want it. Responses were largely consistent across the different respondent groups.
Some felt that provision should be similar to that of nursery or school provision where every child is offered a place. Others focused on more practical changes that would be needed in order to facilitate access for all families who want it.
One of the main topics discussed was the need to increase capacity both within existing services and increasing availability of new services - this included increasing the number of services in general, as well as increasing the diversity of services available so that families have more choice. Some respondents suggested that all schools should provide or facilitate such a service or have access to a range of different services. Many parents/carers (and several respondents from other groups) also discussed the long waiting lists for existing services and a lack of childminders, and felt that increased or expanded provision would help ensure families could secure a space when required:
"Ensuring every school has access to a range of out of school options for parents to choose from e.g. local access to childminders, sports clubs etc." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
"Make it compulsory for primary schools to provide space for out of school care services within the building outwith school hours." (Organisation, OSC Provider)
Other suggestions for increasing capacity included:
- increasing the number of staff within services;
- allowing and supporting clubs to expand their facilities (this was particularly important to OSC providers);
- providing greater assistance to help set up clubs, both in relation to financial assistance and practical advice/support; and
- increased provision for children with additional support needs and disabilities, for secondary school aged pupils, and in rural and remote areas:
"More space available to allow service to expand." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
"Clubs need to be encouraged to set up. Often too many hurdles to jump over to get set up." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
Several OSC providers suggested that there needed to be greater co-ordination or joint working between the different providers and affiliated partners, including regulated out of school care providers, childminders, active schools, other activity clubs, schools, Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs), nurseries, and local authorities.
Some respondents also suggested practical ways of estimating demand so that service provision can be planned. This included:
- surveys of parents/carers to ask about their requirements in relation to days and hours needed, preferred activities, accessible locations, etc.;
- asking parents/carers to indicate their need/preference for out of school care within the school's annual enrolment system; and
- monitoring the scale of any new housing developments.
Affordability was again a key issue identified in making sure all families can access out of school care, with discussion focusing largely on the need for investment in the sector generally, and (consistent with responses at Q8 above), funding/subsidies for services and/or child places, or ensuring fees are affordable for all.
Investment was considered necessary across a range of elements to support the sector. This included investing in:
- infrastructure and ensuring that suitable venues could be provided, including opening up community spaces and providing indoor and outdoor spaces;
- staffing, including investment in training and qualifications;
- inclusion and equality to ensure places are available for children in need, from disadvantaged families, and for those with additional support needs and disabilities; and
- provision for rural and remote areas.
A few parents/carers also suggested that a greater number of local authority based services should be provided as they tended to be more affordable than private services, and it was felt they would have access to the 'best' staff and facilities. Several respondents across a range of respondent groups also suggested that local authorities should keep the rent low (or free) when out of school care services are using their facilities in order to keep overall service costs down. A few also suggested that out of school care should become a statutory provision which local authorities should be responsible and accountable for.
One barrier noted by parents/carers was a lack of information for parents/carers regarding what services are available. As such, many respondents (across all respondent groups) suggested that greater advertising of services was required:
"…it is only by trial and error and word of mouth that you find out what is available." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
Some suggested that schools could play a bigger role in advertising out of school care/clubs to parents/carers. A few parents/carers proposed that information regarding what out of school care is available could be given when registering a child for school or as part of the school induction process:
"Effective communication to raise awareness that the out of childcare places exist. Engage with nurseries and schools so they can actively promote the services to the parents/carers." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
It was also felt that school websites and PTA/Parent Council websites/blogs could advertise local out of school care services, and that the services themselves should provide their own websites to advertise and provide information. It was stressed by a few parents/carers, however, that advertising/promotion should not be restricted to social media or online platforms, but rather wider advertising was required.
Other suggestions included some form of local authority register which is searchable by parents/carers so they can identify suitable local provision. It was stressed that this would need to be kept up to date and should include information on a range of elements, including availability of spaces or details of the waiting list and details to allow parents/carers to identify which services would be suitable for children with additional support needs and disabilities.
As covered in other sections above, many respondents again discussed the accessibility of services for both children and parents/carers.
Several parents/carers also suggested that better facilities were required which provided age and stage appropriate activities. Several OSC providers also suggested that dedicated or consistent spaces were needed for clubs to occupy.
Delivering Services in Rural/Remote Areas
Q9. How can services be more effectively delivered in rural/remote areas to meet the needs of families?
A total of 963 (76%) respondents provided an answer to the question about how services could be more effectively delivered in rural/remote areas, however, 130 (13%) of these indicated that they did not know how to address such issues, with some indicating that they had no experience in this respect. Therefore, only 833 (66%) respondents provided a substantive response.
Some suggested that the best way to address rural/remote delivery would be to directly ask those families living in rural areas what their needs are, what they would like to use, to identify work patterns and accessible areas, etc., indicating that each area would be different and/or that a 'one size fits all' approach would be unsuitable. Some recommended further consultation on this issue as part of the draft Framework process, while others referred to the need for local consultations ahead of developing any such service, and/or ongoing local consultation with families per se.
Of those who provided suggestions and comments in relation to how services could be more effectively delivered in rural/remote areas, two key issues were identified and discussed by respondents across all typologies, namely transport considerations/provisions and the location of out of school care.
Providing appropriate transport was suggested by many respondents as being key in rural/remote areas, including:
- the need for improved public transport links;
- the provision of community transport;
- dedicated buses, mini-buses and taxis (either operated by the out of school care service or the local authority);
- introducing American style dedicated school buses which could also be used for out of school care; and
- providing bus passes for children to facilitate travel to out of school care services, activity clubs, and for club based outings/trips.
Many specified that transport was needed to transport children from school to an out of school care service, while others suggested transport was also required after the clubs finished (particularly where a child would have been able to use the school bus to get home after school) and for trips. Others did not specify what connections this transport needed to provide but rather highlighted that transport provision was vital for remote and rural communities where families live across disparate areas.
A few indicated that public transport provision (typically buses) needed to operate later at night to support families and out of school care provision, while the lack of availability and/or infrequent timetables of public transport was also highlighted by one OSC provider as a barrier to recruiting and retaining staff in rural/remote areas.
Location of Out of School Services
To reduce transport concerns, many respondents across all typologies suggested that out of school care services should be provided within the child's own school. It was considered that the schools would be accessible to families (as the child(ren) would have to attend anyway) and so holding the out of school care service here too would reduce accessibility barriers. Several also suggested that local community facilities (such as town/village halls, church halls, libraries, etc.) could also be used if they are close to the school. Some felt that local services were needed in order to provide equality of access and opportunity across the country, not only in remote and rural communities.
Others, however, suggested that larger centralised services (which provided a service for a cluster of smaller schools) were perhaps more appropriate and would be more sustainable than a series of smaller local services. Where it was accepted that central services may be more realistic (or were considered beneficial to allow children to mix with peers from different schools), it was again felt that reliable, safe and affordable (or free) transport for the child between their school and out of school care service was paramount:
"By not focusing on centralising services, and considering how National strategies can be implemented in real terms in a small rural community. If facilities do have to be centralised, then they must be accessible. In the case of childcare, this would require supervised transport to and from local communities." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
Staffing and Other Support
Some suggested that out of school services should recruit and train staff from the local population and that this was especially relevant in rural and remote communities. It was also suggested that allowing volunteering and a parent helper/rota system may be beneficial/necessary to assist with staffing.
Encouraging, supporting and empowering the local community (e.g. community groups, parent councils, etc.) to set-up and/or be involved in out of school care services was important to ensure the service meets local needs and that it is sustainable. It was suggested that the support required included funding, access to premises, to develop management structures/processes, and advice and assistance to understand and adhere to the regulations and requirements of operating an out of school care service. It was also suggested that charities and community groups should be able to access schools and other community facilities (at an affordable level or at no cost) for the purposes of out of school care, and/or that subsidies could be provided to allow them to access non-council owned facilities.
Parents/carers, OSC providers, local authorities and others suggested that subsidies, funding, and/or access to grants for remote/rural out of school care could help with start-up costs and ongoing resource requirements where population/usage may make it unsustainable for private companies to provide a service. It was also suggested that funded child places would also be helpful in running a more sustainable and accessible rural service:
"To effectively deliver services in rural areas financial support is a key consideration for services as often the numbers of children attending (paying fees) does not match the outgoing costs of the services (staff costs, rents, resources). Support with these areas would be useful to ensure services are sustainable." (Organisation, OSC Provider)
A few mentioned the need to make out of school care hours longer and/or to provide greater flexibility in start and finish times to account for the additional travel time incurred by living in remote/rural areas.
Greater flexibility in the Care Inspectorate's requirements was also considered necessary by a few respondents, specifically in relation to the staff/child ratio, requirements/expectations on the facilities/premises, and hours of operation in these areas.
Increased Availability of Childminders
Several parents/carers, OSC providers, local authorities and organisations suggested that greater availability of childminders in rural areas would be helpful. It was also suggested that incentives, subsidies and/or support for childminders (both to set-up and maintain their service) may be required to boost this type of provision:
"Childminders also have a clear role to play where it is not viable to provide group care in very remote areas." (Organisation, OSC Provider)
A few respondents (including parents/carers, other individuals and OSC providers) suggested that mobile out of school care could be provided, for example pop-up facilities or using a converted bus or trailer:
"Childcare on a bus? Like old style library buses. Converted double-deckers with space to play and learn." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
"Adapted coaches/busses which could collect children on a route then park up near facilities (library, playpark, beach?)" (Individual, Not Specified)
A few OSC providers suggested utilising open spaces and/or creating forest schools/clubs. Sitter services were also suggested as an option by a few respondents to help meet rural and remote communities' needs.
Finally, a few respondents (typically parents/carers and other individuals) highlighted that more provision was needed in rural/remote areas generally. They indicated that there was currently no provision available for them locally, and so any service would be welcomed.
Inclusive for Disabilities and Additional Support Needs
Q10. How can we ensure that children with disabilities and additional support needs can access out of school care services?
A total of 926 (73%) respondents provided a response in relation to how to ensure children with disabilities and additional support needs can access services. Of these, however, 59 (6%) respondents stated they did not know, meaning 867 (68%) respondents provided substantive comments. Again, there was general consistency in the issues raised across all respondent groups.
Many felt that it was important that all children were able to access out of school care and activities. This was seen as a 'right', as well as having benefits for both children with disabilities/additional support needs and other children, including reduced isolation and being integrated in the community for disabled children and teaching other children to be more accepting:
"All children regardless of disability should be given equal opportunities to receive this support." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
However, some respondents highlighted throughout the consultation that there was currently a lack of services appropriately set-up with trained and experienced staff able to accommodate disabled children and those with additional support needs. Even where children and young people are in mainstream schools, the out of school care providers are often not able to accommodate these children, it was felt:
"There's nothing else. Nothing else has ever been offered. With the council holiday programmes there's less and less for disabled kids. It's kind of a minefield to find out if there's anything he can go to." (Event, Parent/Carer)
Providing, utilising, and adapting venues to ensure they are accessible was a common response, with some suggesting that funding would be required to support services to provide the required equipment or make the necessary adaptations. This included not just physical adaptations such as being wheelchair accessible, and having ramps, accessible toilets and changing stations, and loop systems, but also included access to quiet spaces, time out zones, and sensory spaces:
"By ensuring that facilities are adapted to be accessible. Where this is not possible and there is a need, create new facilities or provide a means of getting to other suitable facilities." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
Others suggested that utilising the school building would ensure the facilities provided are compliant and suitable for all the children who attend:
"Generally, school buildings are set up to cater for children who have disabilities so these buildings are ideal." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
A few also highlighted that any specialist schools should be encouraged to provide after-school care on site.
Again, the ability to transport children with disabilities and additional support needs between school and out of school venues was considered important. A few also suggested that the activities and equipment provided should be accessible to children with disabilities and additional support needs, either having been planned specifically because they are suitable, or with other activities being adapted to ensure that all children can participate.
A few, however, including parents/carers with children with disabilities or additional support needs, suggested that adapted facilities in mainstream provisions would not always be suitable for some children, and that more specialised services were required:
"For other children with more complex needs (e.g. my son) it reaches the stage when inclusion is not the best solution and there is a need for a bespoke, specialist out of school service to meet his and the needs of other[s]." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
Providing trained staff was also seen as key to ensuring that children with disabilities and additional support needs can access out of school care. This included both general awareness training for all staff and the provision of specialist training for support staff. Again, however, several highlighted that funding and support may be required for services or staff to access such training and to assist with ongoing costs associated with providing higher staff numbers:
"Ensure that staff are trained to meet all the needs. Train specific staff with specific skills to care for children with additional needs." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
"Offer providers training in supporting children and young people with disabilities and additional support needs." (Individual, OSC Provider)
"Specialist training is also often required and not always easy to access." (Organisation, OSC Provider)
Linked to this, several respondents suggested the need for additional staff so that higher staff to child ratios were achieved, and/or so that children with disabilities and additional support needs could receive one-to-one attention, where required.
Some suggested that greater consultation was needed with children who have disabilities and additional support needs and their families to estimate demand, and to identify what their needs are and what barriers may prevent them from using current and future out of school care services. This was considered to be necessary to establish a greater understanding of the issues, as well as necessary for individual services and local families interested in utilising provision in order to appropriately tailor services and design/implement a suitable support plan.
Similarly, several respondents felt that services could seek advice and support from specialist public or third sector organisations to help accommodate specific needs. Others suggested that various agencies should work in partnership to ensure that the care provided was appropriate, including education professionals, health and social care, the third sector, families and the out of school care provider:
"It would be beneficial to meet more with other professionals who work with the child in order to get an idea of the complete support." (Event, OSC Provider)
"It's important to recognise and utilise the experience and knowledge of the many charitable organisations in Scotland who lead on best practice regarding accessibility for those with disabilities and additional needs." (Organisation, OSC Provider)
While it was acknowledged that provision for disabled children and those with additional support needs would have a higher cost, it was generally felt important that this cost should not be passed onto the family. It was felt the cost of the service should be standard for all children accessing it. This would, however, result in some families or the services needing to be funded/subsidised by central or local government, it was felt.
Some also suggested that the same model as school provision should be used, i.e. if a child receives support in school, the same or equivalent support should be available for out of school care. Indeed, several suggested that Pupil Support Assistants' (PSAs) hours could be extended to enable them to continue supporting their child before/after school:
"When a child has funding for his level [of] support during school hours, that support should follow them after school." (Event, OSC Provider)
A few local authorities suggested that services could consider the use of shared specialist staff or equipment.
A few parents/carers noted that it was important for children with additional support needs and siblings to attend out of school care/activities together or in the same location in order to facilitate drop-offs/pick-ups.
Several parents/carers also discussed their personal experience in this area and highlighted the lack of suitable services, with others indicating that charities were the only ones providing suitable provision. A few also noted that they had been refused places/had places withdrawn in mainstream provision due to accessibility issues and a lack of staff, training or experience in dealing with specific needs/behaviours. Others, however, noted positive experiences with a few respondents identifying the services they used and suggesting that learning and/or good practice could be shared.
It should also be noted that, at the time of writing, Shared Care Scotland had commissioned research exploring the nature and availability of holiday clubs for disabled children and young people in Scotland. The study draws on evidence from qualitative research in six Scottish local authorities and from survey responses from 480 parents/carers, 162 disabled children and young people, 71 service providers, and 14 local authorities. The results of this research could usefully inform the future development of the Out of School Care Framework.
Supporting Community Based Approaches
Q2. What can we do to support community based approaches delivering out of school care?
A total of 1,144 (90%) respondents provided feedback on how to support community based approaches to delivering out of school care. Again, there was much consistency in the responses provided across the respondent groups.
There appears to have been a mixed interpretation of this question, with many respondents simply reiterating the type of service they would like to see and/or discussing issues/challenges to accessing services without being specific as to whether this related to private provision, local authority provided services, or community led services. As these issues are covered in detail above and in the following chapter they are not repeated here. Others, however, provided suggestions relating specifically to the support or promotion of community based approaches, as outlined below.
Access to Funding
Many respondents identified the provision of funding for services generally, and minimising the cost of rent for facilities as key to assisting community based approaches.
Several noted that it had become increasingly difficult for third sector and community organisations to access funding due to more challenging funding conditions and not being able to meet the requirement for particular funding streams. Short term funding streams were also considered challenging as they did not allow services to guarantee a sustainable service or plan long-term. As such, it was felt that greater support was required in this respect.
Some suggested that guidance, practical advice and support should be provided to those interested in setting up a community based service. This included guidance on the requirements of setting up an out of school care service and details of the support that is available, as well as support and advice on administration issues such as training, HR, legal requirements, paying wages, pricing structures, etc. A few also suggested that providing a 'start-up kit' would be helpful:
"Help us understand how we can access training for individuals to want to be involved in out of school care, what funding is available and who/how we can apply for it." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
"Access to practical and legal help is imperative; help with establishing and maintaining building provision is also key. Most importantly, communication, so that each group is NOT left feeling like it has to reinvent the wheel every time they come up with a possible solution to their own, local childcare issues." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
Other factors which could support the setting up of community based services mentioned by a few respondents each included:
- capacity building for community/parent led groups;
- mentoring for those setting up new services;
- communicating and working in partnership with other community based organisations, for example:
- transport providers may be able to support a club's transport needs;
- exploring if individuals or other community groups and activity clubs may be willing to volunteer or share their skills with the children;
- local groups may be able to provide training for staff/volunteers; and
- consult with the local community to establish their needs and wants, and to allow them to have input to the design and implementation of services.
Further, it was suggested that providers should communicate with each other in order to try to create more co-ordinated service offerings to better serve the community. Examples of this included:
- arranging activities so that clubs for different age groups can run in parallel in the same building/nearby to allow siblings' activities to be co-ordinated,
- timetabling a class which parents/carers could attend (for example, a fitness class, or an educational/training type class) to coincide with their children's activity clubs, thus providing mutually beneficial and purposeful activities; and
- to establish a resource lending library or facilitate sharing of resources and equipment in order to minimise costs to individual services and avoid unnecessary duplication.
A few OSC providers also suggested that it was important for out of school care providers to be consulted at an early stage of any planning or policy development to identify any possible partnership opportunities and to ensure that childcare is fully considered and provided for in any new policies, plans and developments. In particular, it was suggested that out of school care facilities should be built into new schools at the planning/design stage, and that out of school care should be considered when planning any new housing development:
"Ensure that OSC provision is considered in planning of new schools and give protected space. Use collaborative strategies to ensure non-statutory organisations have a seat at the table to plan holistically for children's well-being." (Organisation, OSC Provider)
Using Community Resources
Again, many suggested that community facilities could/should be made available for out of school care and activity clubs. This would base the services within the local community. Again, common suggestions included either basing services in the local school or in a community centre/hall. This was seen as important to reduce the need for additional transport costs (or the challenges of using public transport) in order to access the services. A few noted that access to school facilities would be required year round and not only in term-time. It was also suggested that there are many community facilities that are under-utilised but could be used for childcare or activity clubs. A few, however, noted that there may need to be some flexibility in the regulations to allow such buildings to be used for out of school care. In addition, it was felt that more use could be made of outdoor community spaces, such as parks, playing fields and green space.
It was also suggested that community based services should be led/staffed by local people, and/or that parents/carers and other local people could be recruited as volunteers:
"Pathways should be developed and/or strengthened to support local training and recruitment to enable the increased need for providers to be met by members of the local community." (Organisation, Public Body)
More relaxed or flexible regulations were also seen as needed in order to support community based approaches. As for rural areas, this included the need for flexibility in the Care Inspectorate's requirements, but also included:
- the Scottish Social Services Council's (SSSC) qualification requirements, which were seen to be acting as a barrier to community approaches/participation; and
- less administration and strict regulations for childminders as this was seen as reducing the availability of this type of service.
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