A number of other topics and issues were discussed throughout the responses which did not directly relate to any of the specific questions asked, but which still provide valuable information and learning relevant to the development of the Out of School Care in Scotland Framework. These other comments are detailed below.
Purpose of OSC
Throughout the consultation there was some disagreement (largely among parents/carers) as to the overall purpose of out of school care and therefore the priority groups who should be supported to access this. Several appeared to consider this to be, first and foremost, childcare provision which is vital to support working parents/carers, and thus indicated that provision should be prioritised towards this group. They occasionally expressed opinions that parents/carers who do not work do not 'need' childcare:
"I see out of school care as a necessity to help working families continue their work." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
Several others, however, appeared to focus on the wider benefits of out of school care to the child(ren), such as supporting/encouraging a child's development, providing experiences they would otherwise not have, and assisting with food security for children. As such, they felt that the most vulnerable and/or those on the lowest incomes should be supported to access such services and/or that spaces should be allocated to this group first:
"Prioritise spaces on a means basis, i.e. those on low incomes get first space." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
Interaction with ELC Provision
Several respondents (across all respondent groups) highlighted the perceived disparity in provision for pre-school aged children and school aged children. They noted that the free childcare hours provided via ELC (soon to increase to 1140 hours) meant that parents/carers utilised this to allow them to work or to increase their hours. As the provision is free, the cost is not factored into household spending. However, when these same children go to school the provision of funded childcare is removed, meaning parents/carers then need to both find a suitable service for their child and cover the costs of this themselves. For many families this was considered to create much stress and worry, and in some circumstances could lead to parents/carers either reducing their working hours or leaving their job entirely. As such, it was considered necessary for similar levels of investment and support to be provided for the out of school care sector in order to meet the growing and additional demand generated by the investment in ELC:
"…so much has been poured into 1140 [ELC provision], yet when all these children go to school parents are back at square one." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
"…after supporting children and parents with funding for nurseries they go to school and suddenly you have to find £700/month school care for 2 children - my wife is about to go part-time as it no longer is viable for her to work with these costs." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
The ELC provision was also considered to have impacted on staff recruitment and retention within the out of school care sector. Several OSC providers noted that they could not compete with the wages, working hours and other terms and conditions that were being offered by the local authorities under the ELC provision, and suggested that a lot of staff had left the out of school care sector to take up employment in early years' provision as a result.
It was noted by a few respondents that most services are not set-up/able to deal with school refusers and those who have been temporarily or permanently excluded from school. This is particularly the case where out of school provision is based within the school. This impacts on working parents/carers who may be forced to take unpaid leave, or who cannot access unpaid leave in such situations, it was suggested.
Childcare was considered as vital to allow women to enter/re-enter the work place, and as important in providing financial equality between the genders, as well as equality in the workplace. As such, childcare required to be consistent and reliable, and cover the full year (not just term-time). Any difficulties in accessing affordable childcare was considered to have a much greater impact on women's ability to access and maintain work compared to men:
"The government need to provide support to school age children as well as nursery or else working parents (quite likely to be the mums) won't be able to engage fully in work place opportunities." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
"If the government wants more women in the workplace then they need to help with childcare costs, not just nursery places but out of school care as well." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
One event was undertaken with young carers and one organisation responded specifically to highlight the needs of young carers. They stressed that young carers need additional support to be able to access out of school care services and after-school activities/clubs. It was suggested they should receive free or subsidised access and, importantly, they should not to be penalised if they cannot attend at short notice. Free travel on public transport or the provision of greater transport opportunities were also suggested as necessary to ensure that young carers can access services. It was also suggested that a trusted replacement carer may be required to allow young carers to attend clubs and activities.
Possible Alternative Models
Several respondents referenced Scandinavian and Nordic models of childcare provision throughout the consultation. While they did not always provide specific details of what these models entailed, these were referenced in relation to their funding models, accessibility for parents/carers, inclusiveness of services for children with disabilities and additional support needs, and the support/recognition provided to staff. It was recommended several times that these should be considered by the Scottish Government when considering a framework for Scottish provision:
"I would like to see a system that mirrors something like the Swedish model of childcare which is subsidised through taxation, topped up by (possibly) their version of child tax credits, is primarily based outside, had classes of mixed age to encourage socialisation learning and development, and that home cooks and grows nutritious food. The system in the UK is far substandard on comparison to other countries who do so much better and it would be a good time with this remodelling of the system to benchmark and perhaps consider a completely new approach." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
Others suggested that a change to the school day was required in order to fit better with working patterns. While few provided any suggestions on how this might work in practice, one respondent provided a possible outline as detailed below:
"My personal preference would be a change to schooling hours and a 4 day school week. Monday-Thursday 8am-4pm with no Friday at school. Putting Active Schools activities or after-school club on straight from school 4-6pm for children whose parents work late. That would give working parents a Monday-Thursday school session in line with nursery hours. After-school clubs could then work half days on a Friday for parents who needed the extra day and active schools could continue to support after-school clubs on a Friday… Schools could even incorporate whole school breakfasts like in nursery where children come in & eat between 8am-9am with a soft start activity in their classes… and they get called for breakfast like they would for lunch." (Individual, Parent/Carer)
One OSC provider also outlined how alternative/loosening the requirements for staffing could provide an alternative and more cost effective model:
"To meet the needs of all children and the idea of Play Clubs that are operated by local authorities and located within already open and available premises. These could be staffed by suitably qualified and experienced practitioners recruited by the Local Authority without the need to register with SSSC to avoid unrealistic conditions on qualifications. Support staff within a school are not required to register with SSSC and are carrying out similar or more demanding posts… Recruitment would still require PVG and the staff retention would be higher. These services could still be regulated by Care Inspectorate." (Organisation, OSC Provider)
Finally, a few respondents, typically parents/carers and other individuals felt that, rather than focusing on the provision of out of school care, more should be done to encourage employers to be more supportive of and flexible for working parents in order to allow them to spend more time with their children. This included the provision of more flexible and part-time working arrangements, as well as the provision of on-site child care facilities by large employers. A few others felt that more should be done to encourage/support parents/carers to look after their own children rather than choosing/needing to work.