Views on providing free milk and healthy snacks to children outwith funded ELC entitlement
Questions 10 and 11 of the Consultation sought views on the possibility of providing free milk and a healthy snack to children aged under 5 who are in a setting ( e.g. a provider in the private or third/voluntary sector or a childminder), but are not receiving funded ELC entitlement. It was found that there was a large majority of respondents in favour of these proposals. Question 10 asked about ways in which the provision of milk could be done without creating a costly administrative system, and several options were suggested by respondents.
This chapter covers respondents' views on:
- How to provide milk to children outwith funded ELC entitlement
- Agreement/disagreement with the proposal to provide healthy snacks to children outwith funded ELC entitlement
Both these points will now be discussed in turn.
7.1 How to provide milk to children outwith funded ELC entitlement
Question 10 did not explicitly ask whether respondents were in favour of the proposal to provide free milk outwith the funded ELC entitlement; rather, it asked how this may be done. However, from the answers to this question it could be inferred that a large majority of respondents (approximately three quarters) were in favour of this proposal. 20% did not express a clear view in favour or against.
The three approaches that were most frequently suggested for operating the provision and funding of milk outwith the funded ELC entitlement were: using vouchers or a smartcard, direct payments to providers, and having agreements in place with milk providers. However, some respondents also pointed out that further engagement with non-funded childcare providers would likely be necessary.
7.1.1 Vouchers or smartcard
Many respondents who answered this question felt that a smartcard-type system (a pre-paid card or voucher) could be issued to childminders and private or third sector nurseries, based on the number of children in their care. It was suggested by a few respondents that this smartcard could be used to purchase from the same retailers who accepted Best Start Foods payments. A few respondents were of the view that adequate governance systems would be needed and that this would create a certain overhead cost, but that it was nevertheless possible to avoid creating a costly system. One respondent suggested monitoring the system through the Care Inspectorate.
7.1.2 Direct payments
Some respondents, including many childcare providers, saw direct payments to childcare providers to fund milk purchases as a viable option. It was suggested that childcare providers claim retrospectively for milk purchases, i.e. a version of the current UK Nursery Milk Scheme. It was highlighted that this could be simplified through less frequent claims, or by integrating them with other payments. Another option that was identified is that childcare providers receive a regular payment per child, which would include the cost of milk.
7.1.3 Embed in wider procurement
Some respondents, including a few local authorities, suggested that procurement of milk to providers with children outwith the funded ELC entitlement should be embedded into the procurement for funded ELC provision. For example, NHS Lanarkshire suggested that:
'the entitlement is provided to non - funded ELC in the same way it is the funded providers so that no difference is made between the two. If in whatever means the entitlement is delivered, be it a funding bundle or contract with local provider, why does there need to be a difference?' ( NHS Lanarkshire)
It was suggested that the numbers of all children receiving ELC can be obtained from the Care Inspectorate and used to calculate a milk entitlement.
What childcare providers said:
‘This could be included as part of the smartcard scheme discussed earlier, enabling parents to buy it without adding to the administration. If nurseries had a smart card with a certain amount of money based on numbers of children not in funded childcare then they could purchase from the same supermarkets the BSG is aligned with to buy their milk? Would seem like a simple way to work. An online system could be used to record how many children etc. and then money could simply be put onto the nursery’s card, weekly or monthly?’ (National Day Nurseries Association).
`We currently provide milk to all of the babies and children who
attend the nursery. A contribution to this would be simpler than
setting up a whole new system.’ (Flying Start Nursery)
‘The admin cost to local groups is a hassle so needs to be more accessible and easy for us. Registering and an average amount of children who attend each month and receipts to be kept or photocopied and sent in every six months.’ (Parent/carer group)
that the current system is straightforward but it would be as easy
to claim less often. Even once a term or even less for these small
settings would [not be] a problem. They still keep their records on
an ongoing basis. Claiming less often is likely to reduce the
administration cost. It may be that including this with other types
of claim eg fees for providing funded
hours will also reduce the cost.’ (Scottish Childminding Association)
‘Why not just provide it for every ELC nursery setting? With the expansion to 1140 hours many more nurseries will be involved in providing funded places and fewer not doing so; the costs saved on administration processes might make it possible just to provide this as a given.’ (Scottish Out of School Care Network)
7.2 Agreement/disagreement with the proposal to provide healthy snacks to children outwith funded ELC entitlement
A large majority of respondents were also in favour of providing a free healthy snack to children outwith funded ELC entitlement. As Figure 6 shows, of the 112 respondents who answered question 11, 93 (83%) were in favour. 5 (4%) were against the proposal and 14 (13%) did not give a clear view.
Figure 6– The percentage of respondents to question 11 that agreed or disagreed with the proposal to provide healthy snacks to children outwith funded ELC entitlement
A large majority of respondents to question 11 agreed with the proposal to provide healthy snacks to children outwith funded ELC entitlement
The main reason given in favour was the belief held by a large majority of respondents that children should be treated equally regardless of whether they are in funded or unfunded childcare. For example, an individual said:
'My opinion is that if the Scottish government want to provide free milk and snack to children under 5 this should be universal regardless of the childcare provision they attend.' (Individual)
Amongst those who disagreed or were ambivalent with the proposal, the most common reason was the concern that the system would be administratively challenging and costly. A few respondents were of the opinion that higher income families should be able to cover the cost of providing free milk and a healthy snack outwith funded ELC entitlement.
Regarding how the provision of a healthy snack might work in practice, many respondents simply pointed to their views expressed in response to question 10, about the provision of milk.