School age childcare: equality impact assessment

Equality impact assessment (EQIA) for the school age childcare (SACC) programme.

2. Executive Summary

In Best Start - strategic early learning and school age childcare plan 2022 to 2026, we set out our strategic priorities across all our childcare offers – including a commitment to progress the expansion of our childcare offer by building a system of school age childcare for primary school children – which will contribute to our three high level outcomes:

  • children’s development improves and the poverty-related outcomes gap narrows;
  • family wellbeing improves; and
  • parents’ and carers’ opportunities to take up or sustain work, training, and study increase.

An expanded childcare offering for school age children is crucial to our national mission to tackle child poverty, to promote family wellbeing, drive greater gender equality and to #KeepThePromise to our care experienced children.

Figure 1: How the School Age Childcare policy vision and drivers contribute to the National Performance Framework outcomes.
This diagram shows that our vision and key policy drivers have been mapped against the National Performance Framework.

With a clear vision, guided by the National Performance Framework, and strong links to wider policies across Scottish Government, we will focus on delivering positive outcomes for those children and families who stand to benefit most from access to school age childcare. We will take a programme based approach to deliver our projected benefits and outcomes. It is this School Age Childcare Programme which is the subject of this EQIA.

The recently published School age childcare delivery framework sets out our commitment to build a system of school age childcare which will be funded for those families who need it most. It defines our action areas for the next three years, describes our transformational approach – centred around people and place – and considers how we will measure and evidence the impact of early delivery.

As we deliver this School Age Childcare Programme, we will work to address some of the inequalities experienced by children, young people and their families. A key driver, and our starting point for this, is ensuring that we build a school age childcare offer which is funded for families on the lowest incomes and directed towards the six priority family types identified in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, which are:

  • lone parent families, the large majority of which are headed by women;
  • families which include a disabled adult or child;
  • larger families (3+ children);
  • minority ethnic families;
  • families with a child under one year old; and
  • families where the mother is under 25 years of age.

This is because almost 90% of all children in poverty in Scotland live within the six priority family types.

While we cannot determine the impact of any projects or activities within the Programme at this time, we do know, from work we did to develop the Out of School Care in Scotland: A Draft Framework 2019 and other policy development work to date, that within the current system of school age childcare, access to appropriate and affordable childcare is more limited for particular family types. This includes families with disabled parents or children, single parent families, and families in lower income households. We also know that access to school age childcare can be affected by a range of other factors including protected characteristics, geography, and individual child needs.[1] This can create employment barriers for parents and carers which limit career progression, trapping people in lower paid work and often in poverty, and exacerbating existing inequalities. We know too that these families often have limited access to the kinds of high-quality activities that children from more affluent households can access, creating inequalities of opportunity for children and contributing to the attainment gap.

2.1 Scope of the Equality Impact Assessment

This EQIA was undertaken to consider, at a programme level and at an early stage in policy development, the potential impacts of a school age childcare system on families and children with protected characteristics, with a particular focus on how protected characteristics interlink with the six priority family groups identified in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.

The purpose of this EQIA is to provide the ‘big picture’ which sets the context for the individual projects in the Programme which together will deliver the new system. It does this through narrative and also by setting out, at a higher level than for individual policy EQIAs (which will follow), what evidence has already told us about the impact of protected characteristics on the use of school age childcare. It sets out how, as the Programme progresses, we intend to deliver our strategic commitments through a place-based and people-centred approach.

The content of the Programme is wide. It will include, for example, work on delivery mechanisms, eligibility, the range of providers, specialist services for children with additional support needs, regulation and legislation, the workforce, eligibility and food provision. Much of the evidence for the programme EQIA will come from the ongoing design and engagement work which, while it sits within the Programme as a project itself, also underlines and informs all aspects of the Programme. We want school age childcare services to be co-designed with those who use, or who may use them in the future. We will therefore continue to engage with people within their communities, including those with lived experience of poverty, to better understand and address the barriers they face in accessing childcare.

This work will identify and highlight the needs and experiences of those providing and seeking to access school age childcare, particularly focusing on families who face barriers to access.

In addition to this EQIA, for each project in the Programme, relevant impact assessments will be completed as required. We will ensure the potential impacts on people, including children, with protected characteristics are fully considered as part of each project and we will continue to involve experts, stakeholders, providers, families and children as that work progresses.

2.2 Background

The School Age Childcare Programme formally brings together a wide range of work required to deliver our school age childcare ambitions. The Programme has its foundation in several years of policy development work.

2.2.1 Policy development work to date

We first committed to publish a framework for after school and holiday childcare in the Programme for Government 2017-18. A draft framework of Out of School Care (the term we previously used for what we now call ‘school age childcare’) in Scotland was developed and an Out of School Care consultation on it launched in 2019. The draft framework laid the groundwork for ongoing policy development and presented the stories and voices of those we had engaged with at that point.

The draft framework recognised how accessing affordable out of school care could help enable families to lift themselves out of poverty and enable all children and young people to benefit from a range of activities and experiences which will deliver positive outcomes. It included an Out of School Care discussion paper considering the existing evidence on Out of School Care in Scotland. This set out evidence pointing to the potential role out of school care can play in supporting both children’s and parents’ outcomes, particularly for children from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

In March 2021, we published a School Age Childcare progress report setting out the findings from the analysis of the draft framework consultation and our response to ensure we continued to move closer to our school age childcare vision in Scotland whilst considering the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the 2021-22 Programme for Government, we committed to build a new system of wraparound childcare and to progress policy development, including by:

  • supporting 18 pilot projects, testing innovative models of school age childcare for families most at risk of poverty;
  • establishing a diverse and inclusive public panel made up of parents and carers and children and young people, to ensure user experience is front and centre in our system design; and
  • publishing a 5 year delivery plan engaging stakeholders in its development.

And in our 2022-23 Programme for Government we committed to investing in designing and testing options for all-year-round school age childcare systems that meet the needs of children and families. This has included funding a range of tests of change across communities to provide targeted school age childcare services, a summer programmes of childcare, activities and food provision, as well as a new capital fund to deliver improvements to school buildings to support school age childcare providers to make best use of their venue.

Co-designed with children across Scotland, the 2023 National Children’s Charter for School Age Childcare is a statement of children’s needs, rights and aspirations with regard to a new system of school age childcare in Scotland. It presents a set of principles to guide the design of school age childcare and provides a detailed picture of the provision that children want and need. School Age Childcare National Children's Charter supporting documents, including charters local to the participating schools and posters, are also available to download.

The School Age Childcare Delivery Framework, published October 2023, sets out our commitment, action areas and the approach we will take over the next two to three years to deliver a system of affordable and accessible school age childcare which will be funded for those families who need it most.

2.2.2 Policy design approach

Following the Scottish Approach to Service Design, our approach to designing and building a system of school age childcare will be people-centred and place-based.

By this we mean that the people of Scotland are supported and empowered to actively participate in the definition, design and delivery of their public services. The system will therefore be co-designed with those who use services and those who deliver them.

As we design and build the school age childcare system we will put the needs, rights and experiences of those who use – families and children – and those who deliver services, at the heart of our decision making, ensuring that those who currently face the most barriers to accessing school age childcare are included in co-design. We will also work with and for communities, to determine what is important to them. By taking an approach which delivers the outcomes which are important to particular communities, we recognise that co-design may lead us to distinct school age childcare systems and services in different places.

This means, as described further in the next section, that as we deliver the Programme, we will be able to identify and understand barriers that relate to protected characteristics that families can face when trying to access or use school age childcare, and work to overcome these barriers through a well-designed school age childcare system. At the same time, we will identify and seek to overcome barriers children experience directly, for example, in accessing or taking part in the life-enhancing activities school age childcare provides.

1) We listen to what people have told us is the problem before we start designing a solution.

2) We design our school age childcare system around people and communities, and aren’t constrained by existing delivery models. We work across our childcare programmes and the public, private and third sectors to do this.

3) The school age childcare system should be co-designed with those who use services and those who deliver them. The services which make up the school age childcare system will put the needs, rights and experiences of those who use services at the heart of their decision making.

4) We use inclusive, accessible and flexible design methods so people can participate fully and meaningfully in co-design.

5) We are clear about what people can expect from the design process, and what decisions are and are not available for co-design.

6) We use and share the best evidence available to inform the design process. Where evidence is not available, we will look further to find the answers.

7) We understand that people may access the wider childcare system at different stages, depending on the age of their children. They may also move between different services within the system. We commit to coherence across our childcare programmes to ensure the families’ experience of childcare is consistent.

8) We understand that the school age childcare system is rooted in communities. We will design a system in which childcare and other services can come together in the right way, in the right spaces, and in the right places for people.

9) We will prioritise existing community assets, considering how we can re-use, support and grow them as part of a future system of school age childcare.

10) We recognise that this programme is one element of wider work to improve outcomes for families and communities. We will work across Government and with the wider public sector to design systems which make sense to people, and solve whole problems for them.

2.2.3 Embedding equality duties in the Programme

In developing this Programme of work the Scottish Government is mindful of the three needs of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED):

  • eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation;
  • advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not; and
  • foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

We are also mindful that the equality duty is not just about negating or mitigating negative impacts – we also have a positive duty to promote equality.

To properly consider our duties, we will undertake project-level EQIAs as the Programme progresses calling on a wider range of evidence to do these. This will help us develop an accessible school age childcare system which will enable parents and carers who are currently disadvantaged because of childcare responsibilities and related equality factors, to access study or training, secure or increase employment or take the time and support they need to consider how they might re‑enter the labour market. This will help us develop a system that will be equally accessible to all children too.

Knowing that there is no one size fits all solution, we will also use our people-centred approach to design services that meets individual needs, and our place-based approach to ensure we provide childcare solutions which suit our communities. Should we identify any negative impacts as we progress the Programme we are committed to mitigating or eliminating these, and we will continually look for opportunities to promote equality. We are seeking to promote and embed equality through continued consultation and co-design with those who use school age childcare services and those who deliver them.

Our commitment to listening to people to understand what they need from a school age childcare system began in the very early stages of policy development. The draft framework on out of school care in Scotland that we consulted on in 2019 was developed in partnership with parents. It was the product of a period of extensive and varied engagement with parents and children, providers, the workforce, and other stakeholders. That engagement included surveys, theatre workshops, a consultation with children, visits to out of school settings and discussions with local authorities.

More recently, as we have continued our work to develop a system which meets children’s needs, we engaged with children to co-design a national Children’s Charter for School Age Childcare. We did this work with 125 children of various ages, across 5 schools and a young carers group, from a mix of communities in a range of locations including rural, urban and island communities. We involved children with and without experience of attending after school activities and focused on children whose families belonged to one of the six priority family types. The Children’s Charter provides recommendations, outlining how children could better access childcare, activities and wider support around the school day and during the holidays, and the changes they would like to see in the school age childcare landscape. As the Programme progresses, we will use the Charter to make sure that when we make decisions about the system, we think about what is really important to children.

We have also worked with external partners to deliver a discovery phase of the school age childcare People Panel project. The People Panel consists of parents, carers and childcare providers, including childminders, other regulated childcare providers and activity providers. Panel members came from rural, urban and island locations, and all six priority family types were represented. Over 100 parents and carers participated, and over 30 childcare and activity providers. The recruitment of panel members from families and from the sector was supported by local authority partners, by community organisations, and by the Scottish Out of School Care Network and the Scottish Childminding Association. Data on priority family type was collected for panel members, but not full diversity data, so it is not possible to say whether the panel represents all protected characteristics – particularly religion and belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. Where the Tackling Child Poverty Priority Family Groups overlap with protected characteristics however, all groups were represented. This encompasses age (limited to younger parents), sex, race and disability.

Analysis of the findings from our initial co-design with children and parents, as well as other work completed to date, has been used to understand and define the needs of the distinct groups who use and deliver school age childcare. Based on these needs, we have developed a set of user needs design principles (in addition to the Programme Approach Principles referred to above), which underpin the whole Programme, that describe how a school age childcare system should function in order to meet the requirements of its users. These principles will provide a consistent goal that is rooted in the experience of children, parents and providers, therefore enabling the Programme to uphold its commitment to a people-centred and place-based approach. Adherence to the user needs design principles means that school age childcare policy and future delivery plans will be developed through early community adoption, research, co-design and engagement. This will allow equality impacts to be identified and considered continually throughout policy design and delivery.



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