In 2019 we published our Draft Framework for Out of School Care in Scotland for consultation. In March 2020, just as we were about to publish the results of that consultation, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission levels increased, leading to the decision to close our schools and childcare settings with very little notice.
Our draft framework committed us to publishing a strategic school age childcare framework within this Parliamentary term. However, to fully absorb the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to understand how the changing demand for school age childcare affects business sustainability, will take time. In the current climate, it would prove impossible. It's important that our policy for school age childcare reflects those changes, and considers what they mean in terms of supporting children and families. It is equally important to consider these changes from the point of view of the school age childcare sector itself, so that our framework is fit for purpose.
Recognising that families rely on a wide range of services to support them around the school day and during holidays, we are considering the school age childcare sector in its broadest sense. This includes regulated after school and holiday childcare providers, registered childminders, breakfast clubs, activity clubs (including those centred around sports or cultural activities) and youth work provision.
The school age childcare sector have faced significant challenges since March 2020, not least in relation to their own future sustainability. Critical childcare services were needed and many stepped up to deliver for keyworker families and for those children most in need. Within our communities, organisations adapted and mobilised to deliver food and wider family supports as best they could.
There are so many examples of how services within communities have adapted at speed to support families throughout the crisis and there are important lessons to learn. Many families count on childcare providers not just for a safe and nurturing childcare placement, but also for relational-based support that can be crucial to wellbeing for the wider family. At this time, the need for a school age childcare policy that supports many more families is even more pressing.
Acknowledging the importance of continuing to develop this policy, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have progressed work to understand the outcomes of our consultation, deliver tests of change projects through our Access to Childcare Fund and other pilots, better understand the current funding challenges for the sector, and to establish our public panel.
We present this progress report which:
- Provides an update on the outcomes of our consultation at the end of 2019.
- Highlights insights into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for children, parents and carers and childcare providers.
- Confirms our vision and aims for the future of school age childcare in Scotland.
- Outlines our commitment to test the changes needed to deliver our vision including progress to date on our Access to Childcare Fund projects.
- Sets out our policy focus and approach for developing our strategic framework for school age childcare and activities.
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