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New report shows expansion of funded childcare delivers for low income families

Posted 06.10.23 by Alice Hinds

More parents have been able to start work or progress their careers, improve overall health and wellbeing, and develop better relationships with their children thanks to a Scottish Government Fund to expand access to school age childcare, a new report has revealed

Introduced to test and run new models of school age childcare, the second phase of the Access to Childcare Fund saw eight childcare providers across Scotland receive a share of almost £600,000, helping 650 children from low income families access school age childcare.

Conducted independently by Ipsos Scotland, and released today (6 October), The Access to Childcare Fund Phase 2 Evaluation Report aimed to assess the benefits of the Fund, and the findings reveal a range of positive outcomes, including increased opportunities for children to develop social skills and strengthen relationships with both adults and peers, especially for those with additional support needs.

Minister for Children and Young People, Natalie Don said: “As we mark Challenge Poverty Week this report highlights the impact our support continues to make for children, young people and their families who are most in need, and how childcare providers can be key in supporting these families.

“Improving access to childcare not only brings wide ranging benefits for the children, it also helps parents to get back into work, engage in training or progress their careers. Quality childcare provision is both an anti-poverty and a pro-growth measure.

“This report follows our commitment in the Programme for Government to expand our childcare offering, and sets out the difference that funded school-age childcare can make to support families to enter and sustain employment.”

Currently, all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds are eligible to take up 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare in Scotland, and the evidence collected as part of the evaluation indicates that the Phase 2 projects met the aims to make childcare more accessible, affordable and flexible for parents and carers from low income families, as well as those most at risk of experiencing poverty.

Work is now underway with local authorities and other partners to expand national provision for families with two-year-olds, as well as targeted early delivery of all-age childcare for low income families.

Phase 2 of the Fund, which was managed by Children in Scotland and an expert advisory group, supported the following providers:

· Hame Fae Hame
· St Mirin’s Out of School Care
· The Indigo Childcare Group
· SHIP (Support, Help and Integration in Perthshire)
· SupERkids
· Clyde Gateway
· Stepping Stones for Families
· The Wee Childcare Company.

For more information, and to read the full report, click here to visit the Scottish Government website:

Click here for more about the Access to Childcare Fund:

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New funding announced to improve access to childcare and after school clubs

Posted 04.05.23 by Alice Hinds

Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities will soon benefit from additional funding for after school and holiday clubs, the Scottish Government has announced.

Local authorities are now able to apply for a share of £4.5 million to support and improve indoor and outdoor spaces within school estates, with education settings encouraged to consider the wider needs of their local community after the first year.

Announced at a national anti-poverty summit in Edinburgh, the fund is open to all local authorities, however, applicants will need to demonstrate how they have worked in partnership with school age childcare and activities providers, outline ambitious ideas, and define how projects will benefit children and families, particularly those from low-income areas.

Managed and administered by Scottish Futures Trust, the funding is targeted at families on the lowest incomes, specifically the six priority family types identified in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan – lone parent families, minority ethnic families, families with a disabled adult or child, families with a mother under 25, families with a child under one, and larger families.

First Minister, Humza Yousaf said: “Helping families deal with cost of living pressures is one of our key priorities and providing further funding for affordable and accessible school age childcare will help deliver that. Funded school age childcare supports parents and carers into work and enables them to support their families, while also providing a nurturing environment for children to take part in a wide range of activities.”

With all three- and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds currently entitled to 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare per year, the First Minister said Scotland has the “most generous childcare offer anywhere in the UK”, and developing a funded early learning and childcare offer for one and two-year-olds will be a key focus over the next three years.

Identifying tackling poverty and inequality as the biggest challenge facing Scotland today, he also said “nothing will be off the table” to help households struggling with the cost of living, and with input from campaigners, businesses, third sector organisations, local government, and those with direct experience of hardship, the summit will “drive new momentum in the fight against poverty in Scotland”.

Photo. A child of preschool age with a black jacket, blue bag and green cap stands looking at a nursery notice board. The picture is taken from behind.

More than a third of parents unable to access suitable childcare

Posted 22 November, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

New research has revealed that affordability and flexibility are key barriers for parents trying to find childcare settings for their pre-school children.

Flexible Childcare Services Scotland (FCSS), a national charity that runs 23 childcare settings across Scotland, conducted the research with 600 parents in order to better understand some of the challenges of accessing childcare for younger children.

Their findings revealed:

  • More than a third of parents (36%) find it difficult to find preschool childcare. Of these 76% said this was due to affordability issues.
  • Two fifths (41%) of parents of preschool children said they were unable to access childcare during the working day.
  • 64% of respondents indicated their employer provided little or no flexible working.

In addition, parents spoke about the difficulties of securing childcare hours which fitted around their working patterns or employment commitments, affordability and long waiting lists. These issues are anticipated to only be exacerbated by the ongoing, and increasing, cost-of-living crisis with a recent report (click to access) from the Poverty Alliance and the Scottish Budget Group identifying this will disproportionately impact women and single parents.

Flexible Childcare Services Scotland’s Chief Executive, Susan McGhee, said:

“This research shows the harsh reality that families across the country face – to work or not to work. As the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, this problem is likely to be compounded putting even greater challenges on families.”

Created by One Parent Families Scotland, FCSS was launched in 2019 in response to findings from the charity that the parents they were supporting were unable to engage in training, education or employment due to a lack of flexible childcare provision.

FCSS believes the model it operates in its own centres in Dundee, Inverness, Keith and across Aberdeenshire, along with the models adapted for other childcare providers, can deliver the flexible solutions modern families need. This includes the free childcare management software, Caerus, which helps childcare providers manage their entire setting, and release any extra capacity as flexible spaces. This model will help parents save money as they only pay for the spaces used, and will allow providers to maximise their occupancy and income through using all spaces available.

Click here to find out more about Flexible Childcare Services Scotland

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News: Cost-of-living crisis is disproportionately affecting women, reveals new report

Posted 16 November, 2022 by Nina Joynson

New research has found women in Scotland face increasing financial difficulties, with low-income jobs and care responsibilities responsible for increased economic concerns.

A new report from the Poverty Alliance and the Scottish Women's Budget group, “It’s hard work being poor” – Women’s Experiences of the Cost-of-Living Crisis in Scotland, has found that women are disproportionately impacted by the cost-of-living crisis. Those particularly affected include women in low-paid work, asylum-seeking women, women with care responsibilities and lone parents.

Of the women involved in the research, from a range of backgrounds, many told researchers they were worried about their winter energy bills, while parents and carers raised concern over the affordability of essential household items such as baby wipes and toilet roll.

Links between women’s and child poverty

Almost all participants in the research spoke about the impact and additional spending involved in care for children and extended family.

Highlighting recent figures from Carers UK, the report estimates the economic value of women’s unpaid care to be approximately £77 billion per year, with women most likely to be primary caregivers for children, and 92% of lone parent families headed by women.

Poverty rates are highest among lone parent families, and lone mothers are more likely to struggle to cover the costs of household items, childcare and bills.

Furthermore, the rising costs of food, transport and household goods have affected those with dependents, and women in particular are more likely to reduce spending on their own meals clothing and heating in order to provide for children.

Making changes

The report makes several recommendations, including that the UK and Scottish Government work to ensure adequate incomes for all, and increasing financial support for asylum seekers, people with no course to public funds, and women in low-paid work or with caring responsibilities.

It also calls on the Scottish Government to give greater recognition to unpaid care work and women’s role as mothers in Scottish policy, and to work towards an education and childcare entitlement for all children in Scotland.

Sara Cowan, co-ordinator at SWBG, said:

“Women are more likely to be poor, have lower levels of savings and wealth, and are less able to find suitable work or increase their hours if they’re in work often due to caring responsibilities that fall disproportionately on women.

“The women in this research talked about the impossible decisions they had to make to prioritise feeding their children, and whether or not to turn the heating on. Or not being able to buy things like baby wipes, incontinence pads, or toilet roll.

“The Scottish and UK Governments can help by increasing and extending the emergency support available to people, and working to put justice and compassion at the heart of social security and our public services.”

Click here to read the full report

Access to childcare services ‘has strengthened relationships and wellbeing for children and parents’, new report finds

Media Release

Projects across Scotland supported by the Access to Childcare Fund (ACF) have made a difference to families’ lives, bolstering children and parents’ health, relationships and financial security.

That’s the key finding of the final report into phase one of the ACF, which also reveals that access to childcare opened up new work opportunities and reduced costs for many participating families.

Funded school age childcare provided through the projects offered a safe, supportive place for children to come together and, while families may have experienced difficult times through the pandemic, children were able to have fun, make new friends, get outdoors and play.

Click here to read the report

The Scottish Government’s Access to Childcare Fund was designed to increase access to childcare for those families most at risk of experiencing child poverty.

Between October 2021 and March 2022, the Fund invested more than £2 million into 15 projects across Scotland. National charity Children in Scotland managed the fund on the Scottish Government’s behalf.

A short film about the Fund and projects it supported has been produced (click the link on this page to watch the film).

The final report into the Fund provides an overview of its impact and shares learning from funded projects. Its key findings and recommendations include:

  • Funding must be targeted at subsidising childcare costs so families on low incomes are no longer locked out of services
  • Childcare services must have longer funding periods to enable them to develop, plan, deliver and evaluate their approaches
  • As specialist services for children with additional support needs are particularly expensive because of the greater number of skilled staff required, additional funding must be available across Scotland to ensure children with ASN get equal access to school-aged childcare
  • Support for targeted and specialist childcare providers must be given to help all families access these services. Targeted services for minority ethnic families, for example, help to foster inclusion
  • Evidence from projects should be explored to show how incorporating whole family support into services from early years to school age can increase the uptake of places and may enable progression from poverty
  • Childcare should be recognised as an important part of the wider children’s services landscape, and childcare providers should be included in children’s services planning processes
  • Transport must be viewed as part of a holistic childcare offer. Transport provision can help families overcome childcare barriers including cost, lack of transport options, and parents/carers work or study commitments.

Welcoming publication of the report, Children in Scotland’s Head of Policy, Projects and Participation Amy Woodhouse said:

“The Access to Childcare Fund experience has taught us many valuable lessons, including the importance of relationships, the complexity of poverty, and the fact that childcare does not exist in a vacuum but is deeply connected to other basic needs in families and communities.

“Children and young people have had a lot of valuable things to say about their experiences of the childcare provided through the Fund. A recommendation of the report is that childcare providers should consider how they incorporate children’s views into service design, delivery and evaluation. We are hopeful that Scotland’s move towards incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child will provide further impetus for this.”

Access to Childcare Fund Lead Alison Hay said:

“Although funded projects had to operate in the most challenging of circumstances, the Fund has shown that our vision for childcare as a service that nurtures the child and the wider family, exists as part of a wider community, and is responsive to individual needs, is possible and achievable.”

Children’s Minister Clare Haughey said:

“This report shows that almost 1500 children from 1000 low income families were supported through the Access to Childcare Fund (ACF) between October 2021 and March 2022.

"The Scottish Government is committed to building a system of school age childcare, where the least well-off families pay nothing. This evaluation of the ACF will help our understanding of what families need as we take our next steps.

"I would like to thank Children in Scotland, the projects, and the families involved, who provided valuable input for this report.”

More than 1479 children from 1000 families were supported through the Fund. It supported projects to test out new approaches to childcare, including expanding services through providing free and subsidised places; increasing the hours and days of operation; and increasing the types of services on offer.

In the context of a challenging winter, the cost of living crisis, and evidence of how projects supported by the Fund reacted to rapidly changing circumstances, it is hoped that the report’s learning and recommendations can be widely shared.


Media contact: Chris Small, Communications Manager - Children in Scotland,

Notes for editors

About the Access to Childcare Fund

The Scottish Government’s £3 million Access to Childcare Fund (ACF) was opened in July 2020. The purpose of the Fund was to support childcare solutions that enable more accessible and affordable childcare for families with school-aged children and to help to reduce the barriers parents and carers can experience in accessing childcare. These barriers include the cost of childcare, the hours available, and accessibility for children with additional support needs. The awards aimed to make services more accessible and affordable for low-income families, particularly the six identified priority family groups most at risk from living in poverty and as set out in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.

The Fund was managed by Children in Scotland, with strategic input from an expert steering group. Both evaluation and improvement were at the heart of the Access to Childcare Fund and Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS) has provided significant input and support to services throughout. A mentoring and peer network also operated across the projects. The fund was launched shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in Scotland, and in the context of a number of national lockdowns and ongoing restrictions.

The funded services were:

  • Action for Children, Moray
  • Clyde Gateway, South Lanarkshire
  • Flexible Childcare Service Scotland, Aberdeenshire
  • Flexible Childcare Service Scotland, Dundee
  • FUSE, Glasgow
  • Hame Fae Hame, Shetland
  • Hope Amplified, South Lanarkshire
  • Indigo Childcare Ltd, Glasgow
  • Inverclyde Council
  • Low Income Families Together (LIFT), Muirhouse, Edinburgh
  • Supporting Help and Integration in Perthshire (SHIP), Perth & Kinross
  • St Mirin’s Out of School Care, Glasgow
  • Stepping Stones for Families, Glasgow
  • SupERkids, East Renfrewshire
  • The Wee Childcare Company, Angus.

Click here for more information about the Fund:

About Children in Scotland

Giving all children in Scotland an equal chance to flourish is at the heart of everything we do.

By bringing together a network of people working with and for children, alongside children and young people themselves, we offer a broad, balanced and independent voice. We create solutions, provide support and develop positive change across all areas affecting children in Scotland.

We do this by listening, gathering evidence, and applying and sharing our learning, while always working to uphold children’s rights. Our range of knowledge and expertise means we can provide trusted support on issues as diverse as the people we work with and the varied lives of children and families in Scotland.

ACF Final Phase One Evaluation Report

Our report into the Access to Childcare Fund identifies successes and shares learning

Click here to read

Enabling childcare that's more accessible

The Fund supports childcare solutions and helps reduce barriers facing parents/carers

Visit the website

2021-26 Manifesto

Our Manifesto includes key calls on poverty and improving access to childcare

Click here for more

Our projects

Our range of projects focus on young people's voices and participation

Click here for more
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Comment: Childminding suffering from an expansion programme that doesn't recognise its value

Posted 26 November, 2021 by Jennifer Drummond

Implementation of the Scottish Government’s extension to funded childcare hours is failing childminding and threatens parental choice, writes Graeme McAlister (pictured), Chief Executive of the Scottish Childminding Association

In 2016 the Scottish Government published an ambitious blueprint to increase the entitlement to free Early Learning and Childcare (known as ‘funded ELC’) from 600 hours to 1140 hours for all three- and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds in Scotland from August 2020.

Since then, a huge amount of activity has been undertaken across the country at a national and local level to implement this important policy aimed at closing the attainment gap, increasing parental choice and providing more flexible childcare.

The intention is welcome, but the Scottish Childminding Association’s (SCMA) latest report, charting the progress of Scotland’s local authorities in including childminders in the delivery of funded ELC makes stark, challenging and uncomfortable reading.

We do not underestimate the scale and complexity of implementing the expansion of ELC; nor do we underestimate the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and the disruption which this has caused. However, the reality for childminding is that many of the problems which childminding has faced with ELC expansion were deeply embedded before Covid-19 emerged and have not been adequately addressed.

While some progress has been made in increasing the numbers of childminders involved in delivering funded ELC, the numbers remain low. The founding principle of provider neutrality, or the ability for parents to choose to access their funded ELC from a range of childcare providers supported by the local authority who are authorising the funding is not working as it should.

There is clear evidence that childminding is not being promoted and offered equitably alongside local authority nursery provision as an option for parents to receive their entitlement of funded hours. Too many offers for funded ELC made by local authorities to parents are inflexible. Many childminders believe delivering funded hours is important to sustainability, but there is often a weak match between offers made by local authorities to parents and childminders’ business viability.

In addition, delivering funded hours, and the wider ELC expansion, has led to a significant increase in bureaucracy and paperwork for childminders, including through duplicative quality assurance systems at a national and local level. This is now the main reason childminders have left or plan to leave our workforce.

Encouragingly, the results of snapshot surveys of childminders and parents linked to the main audit would suggest that the majority of parents are receiving their first choice of childcare provider. However, this needs to be qualified with concern about the lack of choice and options available locally, with more than half of parents reporting they only received a single option for accessing their funded ELC within the offer from their local authority. As such, preferences could clearly differ if parents were presented with more options and the ability to make an informed choice.

In response to these findings of the audit, SCMA has made a number of detailed recommendations to Scottish Government including:

  • Provider Neutrality should be replaced; alternatively, the Scottish Government and local authority representative bodies need to step up and step in and ensure that Provider Neutrality is actually practised, and that local authorities promote and offer other forms of childcare including childminding, alongside local authority nursery provision, to parents as an option for accessing their funded ELC entitlement.
  • All funded ELC offers need to become more flexible and based on parental need.
  • Urgent, and immediate, action is required by Scottish Government to reduce the level of bureaucracy and paperwork for childminders associated with ELC expansion.
  • Scottish Government should undertake an urgent review of the wider scrutiny landscape BEFORE any additional scrutiny is added through Education Reform, the National Care Service and the Programme for Government’s commitments on one year-olds and school-aged childcare.
  • Scottish Government should provide financial support to extend the planned, demographically-targeted childminder recruitment campaign, initially in development for remote and rural areas;
  • Eligible-twos uptake must be urgently increased by implementing measures to increase the use of childminders for this priority group.

After five years of national and local implementation activity delivering funded ELC, the childminding workforce has declined by 26%, or 1457 childminders. This has accelerated in parallel to ELC expansion. This cannot be sustained and has significant implications for families, access to childcare and parental choice.

It could also threaten the Scottish Government’s ability to deliver on its commitments in the Programme for Government (click here to access) to extend ELC downwards to one-year-olds and to develop a new system of wraparound school-aged childcare – both areas in which childminders are heavily involved and will play a vital role.

A step change in action is now required – and urgently.

The SCMA published the Early Learning and Childcare Audit on Thursday 25 November.

Click here to view and download the report in full, via the SCMA website

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News: Education Recovery plan misses the mark say teaching unions

Posted 6 October, 2021 by Jennifer Drummond

The Scottish Government’s plans to support the recovery of the education sector have been met with scepticism from teaching bosses

A new Scottish Government Education Recovery strategy outlines how almost £500 million has been used to support learners and staff across the country, and shares plans of how the Scottish Government will continue to provide support to the sector.

Amongst some of the key commitments are:

  • Further support for learners sitting exams in 2022
  • Access to in-school mental health and wellbeing support, including counselling
  • Recruitment of 3,500 additional teachers and 500 support staff over this parliamentary term
  • Expanded funded early learning and childcare for children aged one and two, starting with low-inocme households
  • Committing £1 billion to tackle the poverty related attainment gap

Commenting on the strategy, Shirley-Anne Somerville, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills said:

“Schools are still dealing with the pandemic and we will continue to support them through these challenging times. However, as a Government we must also be focused on recovery. Supporting children and young people remains our top priority, and almost £500 million of additional funding has already been committed during 2020/21  and 2021/22 as part of education recovery. Of this, £240 million is to recruit staff to ensure resilience and to provide additional support for learners and teacher.

“Pupils sitting exams in Spring 2022 will be offered a package of support which will include online revision classes and targeted help for those who need it most. At the heart of all this is our children and young people, who we will ensure have the opportunities they need to fulfil their potential in school and beyond.”

However, the plans have been met with criticism from union bosses who have expressed disappointment at its lack of vision and ambition, viewing it as an opportunity missed.

Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of EIS, Scotland’s largest teaching union, said:

“Clearly, there are significant elements within the plan to be welcomed – not least the commitment to increasing teaching numbers.

“Overall, however, the plan largely restates existing workstreams and fails to promote a single big initiative such as a reduction in class sizes, which would catalyse an education recovery programme and bring immediate benefits to Scotland’s children and young people."

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT-The Teachers Union also shared this view, commenting:

“While there are some potentially helpful additional programmes and ideas, these seem at best to be bolt-ons to a pre-pandemic policy framework.

“Given the central role of teachers to securing education recovery the strategy is disappointingly light on tangible actions to retain teachers, tackle the crisis in teacher morale, tackle excessive workload and deliver real improvements to teachers’ pay, without  which the pledge to recruit additional teachers will not be realised.

“Recovery needs to be understood as a long-term process given the pandemic’s far-reaching effects, but this strategy fails to set out a holistic post-pandemic vision which would support children in all aspects of their lives, not just within formal education.”

Click here to read Education Recovery: Key action and next steps

Our reaction to the Programme for Government: family wellbeing fund welcomed but disappointment at lack of progress on child payment level

8 September 2021

Children in Scotland has responded to yesterday’s publication of the Programme for Government.

Commenting on key policy areas that directly affect the lives of children and young people such as children’s rights, tackling poverty, the environment, and mental health and equalities, our Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, Amy Woodhouse, said:

Upholding children’s rights

“As highlighted in the Programme for Government 2021-22, the timeline for commencement of the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill is currently uncertain as we await the judgment of the UK Supreme Court.

“However, we welcome the Scottish Government’s ongoing commitment to incorporation and the announcement of £4 million investment between now and March 2024 to support public services to uphold children’s rights is a positive step in this direction.

“Nevertheless, we believe that the financial commitment to incorporation needs to be much higher if we are to achieve our aspirations for upholding children’s rights across Scotland.

Family support

“Our members have highlighted to us that secure and stable funding is a recurring issue across the children’s sector [1] and its scarceness affects its ability to achieve positive outcomes for children and families.

“We therefore warmly welcome the £500 million investment in a Whole Family Wellbeing Fund, introduced as part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to Keep The Promise. This will bring some much needed and widely called-for investment in early, holistic support for families.


“As members of the End Child Poverty Coalition, we have campaigned for solutions that would make a much-needed difference in tackling child poverty, and have strongly advocated for a doubling of the Scottish Child Payment as the most effective method to address the concerning increase in child poverty rates.

“We of course welcome the extension of the payment to cover children up to age 16 by the end of 2022, however we would urge the Scottish Government to act on its commitment to double the payment as quickly as possible.

“We were disappointed that this commitment was not made in this year’s Programme for Government and we strongly urge the Scottish Government to prioritise this in its upcoming budget setting.

The environment

“The environment is one of the most pressing issues facing us today and the global consequences if effective and rapid action to address climate change is not taken will be catastrophic.

“We are encouraged by the focus given to the environment in the government’s plans, involving active travel, decarbonising homes, ensuring a Just Transition and the protection of our natural environment, but cannot understate the urgency with which real and large-scale change is required.

“We welcome the commitment of the Scottish Government to become a ‘net zero nation’ and the steps outlined to achieve this. It is difficult to assess the scale of the proposed action at this stage and we ask for a clearer pathway on how the government will achieve net zero and specific targets and timescales to be laid out in the government’s next Climate Change Plan.

“We welcome the commitments to provide free bus travel to young people under the age of 22 and the explicit acknowledgement that the poorest and most vulnerable in the world have done the least to contribute to climate change (but will be the first affected) and we look forward to reading the details of the increase to the Climate Justice Fund.

“We note that there is no mention of air quality in the government’s plans, which is an unfortunate omission. We believe that air quality must be improved in the areas where children live, learn and play will continue to call for a school air quality monitoring scheme to be introduced as a first step to ensuring this.

“We know from our work how important this issue is to children and young people. Radical and sustained action must be taken to ensure that they do not pay the price for the inaction of previous generations.


“We are encouraged to see more focus on the mental health of children and young people, which has been lacking in previous plans put forward by the government. We welcome the commitment to dedicate at least 10% of frontline NHS spending to mental health, but question whether this will be sufficient to address the level of unmet need that currently exists.

“The proposal to create a National Care Service could have a significant impact on the lives of children and families, and it is vital that this is well thought through and based on what children and families need.

“We are keen to amplify the views and experiences of our members in our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the National Care Service and we would welcome members to attend our Voices Forum event in October on this issue.


“We welcome the promise to implement the recommendations of the OECD review on curriculum and assessment, but do not underestimate the scale of this task, nor the necessity for real improvements to be made across the education system.

“Children and young people’s education over the last 18 months has been badly fractured by the pandemic, and they have repeatedly told us how infrequently their voices and needs were considered in decision-making about their education and learning.

“This has to improve, not least for those with additional support needs, whose rights to additional support have been badly affectedly by lockdowns, home learning, and other restrictions.

“We therefore strongly support the Scottish Government in its commitment to fully implementing the findings of the Additional Support for Learning Review. Achieving the report’s recommendations for all children and young people who need additional support for their learning would be a significant and hugely positive step.


“In the statement made by the First Minister, it was acknowledged that trans people are one of the most stigmatised minorities in our society and the commitment was made to ensure that the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate is ‘less degrading, intrusive and traumatic’.

“We welcome the intention to bring forward the Gender Recognition Bill with the hopes that it will bring about a rights-based approach to this process.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to work together with the UK Government to develop policies and practices to benefit those seeking refuge and asylum. These are more necessary than ever.

“We note the expansion of the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy and the promise to provide an additional £500,000 to support local authorities to accommodate more unaccompanied asylum-seeking children arriving in Scotland.

“We will be monitoring the progress of this commitment and would urge the government to ensure that the needs of all people seeking asylum, such as adequate housing, mental health support, physical health and the vital opportunities to connect with others, are met.


“Children in Scotland welcomes the commitment to school-age childcare. From our projects and services, we know that children, young people, their families, and services need childcare that is adequately supported to meet children and family needs. The barriers to access are well researched and documented; it’s time for change.

“Children in Scotland has been administering the Scottish Government’s Access to Childcare Fund since its launch in 2020. The Access to Childcare Fund has been developing the evidence base of the types of school-age childcare services that can have the biggest impact on families most likely to be experiencing poverty.

“Support for the 15 funded services (which include the Indigo Childcare Group, the site of a visit by the First Minister this week) shows:

  • The funding has allowed projects to offer more places for more children, and support for their families who would previously not have been able to access childcare.
  • Impact for families has included being able to move into employment, training or studying.
  • Therapeutic work is taking place in collaboration with partners and places whole family support at the core of services working with children and families.
  • Projects are looking at different and innovative ways of using outdoor spaces to run their services.

“The impact of the pandemic and restrictions on the childcare sector has been very significant. Over the summer demand for services has begun to return with families reporting the significance of the provision for their children, and for them.

“The funded services are testing the need to be sustainable for families whose children attend, and the service itself. This includes considering these key questions:

  1. Does subsidised school aged childcare support families to gain, sustain or progress in employment or learning?
  2. Does targeted Family Support empower families to improve their quality of life and lead to improved outcomes?
  3. Do working families require weekend/ holiday childcare?
  4. Can a referral scheme, subsidised childcare options and a family support function, support the longer-term sustainability of out of school care provision for older children and young people?
  5. Does flexibility of hours increase uptake?”


[1] Click here to read our members' response to funding in the children's sector

2021-22 Programme for Government

The government's legislative plans were announced at Holyrood on Tuesday 7 September

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Children in Scotland 2021-26 Manifesto

Our Manifesto calls are supported by partners across the sector

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Young people's advisory group

Changing our World helps shape our policy positions and influencing work

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Solutions for childcare challenges

We manage this fund, aimed at reducing the barriers parents and carers experience in accessing childcare

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"Invest in whole family support"

For our 25 Calls campaign, Clare Simpson said the government must invest in relationship-based support

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“Children don’t need shorter holidays or longer school days. They need more play”

1 April 2021

Margaret McLelland, manager of St Mirin’s Out of School Club –  a recipient of funding from Children in Scotland’s Access to Childcare Fund – explains why play is so fundamental to childhood and learning. This article was originally published by Inspiring Scotland as one of their practitioner guides resources

There has never been a more crucial time for play not only in Scotland but across the world. A global pandemic has deprived children of so many play experiences. Media are covering the “gap” and “loss” of learning and how Scotland might address the impact of “lost learning”.

Our children don’t need more school, reduced holidays, extended educational days. They need more play! Mental health and wellbeing are a priority for our children. This needs to be intact before children even begin the process of learning and what better way to do this than through play?

As manager of an out of school club based in a primary school we have been engaging with the school long before the pandemic. We now recognise there is even more additionality we could offer and bring to the school. As play practitioners and professionals we are highly trained, and our skills and expertise have the potential to enhance the whole school community.

It starts with relationships, from there we build mutual respect between the teaching staff and the play professionals. This has certainly raised the profile and understanding of play by highlighting what can be achieved through play. By this I mean play indoors and especially outdoors, play guided by the playwork principles, play in both its forms of structured and unstructured, play that is spontaneous, self-directed and assists children to meet their own needs, play that involves risk, compromise, negotiation , trust, choice, collaboration and empowerment for children. The teaching staff have an understanding of play to an extent but their educational understanding of play at times does not lend itself to play in the biological sense.

Our play journey

So, we are embarking on a journey to incorporate more play in the school day not only for lower primary years but the whole school. Our initial aim was to enthuse school management that play is a perfect vehicle in which learning unfolds and unravels. Play is the universal language of childhood and enabling playful environments for children provides them with a plethora of opportunities to develop their imagination and curiosity. The physical benefits of play are well known. Play (particularly outdoor play) increases wellbeing, increasing oxygen levels, heart rates, activity levels and obesity but the mental health benefits and development of soft skills enhanced by play are much less well known and understood. As an out of school service, we hoped we might highlight this in the school we operate within.

How to bring more play to your school

We approached our head teacher about the possibility of bringing more play to the school day. Our initial discussions enabled us to recognise the educational drivers, but we were able to introduce how play could provide an excellent platform for learning in a more autonomous way. Together we discussed how we might introduce play and it may have the potential to enhance learning experiences and outcomes for children. Finally, we agreed what was to become a plan! There has been challenges, but we are taking tentative steps towards a more playful school. One such challenge is addressing the view that play is frivolous, it’s what children get to do as a reward or its “messing around”. The complexity of play can mean it can be some of that but professional observations of play can unravel exactly what is being achieved and learned by children even in the “messing around” stages of play.

Our initial attempts at bringing play to the school day were very positive. We started by introducing play professionals to the playground. Children were naturally drawn to these playful adults and engaged almost immediately in active play. To us this was a great introductory starting point not only for the children but for the teaching staff on duty in the playground. We recognised immediately this was play however we realised our intervention style was leading and our preferred state is to be observing and leaving the content and intent of play to the children. But it was a starting point. Even though our team were involved in play our skilled observations told us which children were demonstrating leadership whist others were content to follow. It was also noticed which children were at ease in play whilst others required adult play cues to get involved. The challenge for play professionals was being very aware we were not staying true to our play principles.

However, we promptly agreed this was an excellent stating point on which to build trust with children. So, we viewed this stage as an introduction to play in its simplest form. Our other school involvement was to explore health and wellbeing in playful experiences. This was a one-hour sessions, 5 days per week for small groups of children (max 8) We used play to help children recognise feelings and emotions. Again, this is a more structured type of play but a very worthwhile pilot in which we learned there is most certainly a need for playing more therapeutically with children. Throughout the weeks we introduced the concept of play to the school we were receiving excellent feedback from the school staff team. We engaged in numerous meetings with the head teacher and we laid out our initial plans to bring more play to the school day. We advised the head teacher that this, to us, was a starting point as true play not peppered by outcomes would still achieve and benefit children.

Even in this early stage of our pilot we were able to highlight some children who may need some support to further engage and this finding was echoed by the school as some children were receiving educational support. This highlighted that play can be used to assist children with social and communicative skills which in our play world are as important as academic success.

The challenges and successes

Then COVID and lockdown stopped all of us in our tracks. Since March 2020 we have been unable to further our journey with this. Even being back briefly the restrictions made it impossible to mix certain groups and social distancing meant the whole school physical space and environment prevented us moving forward. The second lockdown came rapidly after the first and today (February 2021) we are hopeful we will be returning to school 15th March. The fantastic news is that St Mirin’s Out of School club has been successful in a major funding bid to the Access to Childcare Fund.

Our application included funding even more play into the school day. We commenced a breakfast and play club which is receiving excellent feedback from families. This funding will also enable us to increase our time working within the school day enabling more play and playing therapeutically to gain best outcomes for our school community. We will also be operating two nights per week 6pm-8pm with our “Simply Play” model. This will very much be guided by our playwork principles of self-directed play.

Our journey has only just begun, and it is new territory for school and out of school to collaborate and work in partnership in such a way. It has had its challenges but for the most part early indications are that this joined-up approach of play and learning can be one of the same thing. Learning through play in all its forms is in my opinion the best method for some children to learn.

Strengthening access and affordability

The Fund provides grants focusing on priority groups most at risk from poverty

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The value of outdoors play-based learning

Inspiring Scotland originally published Margaret's blog in their practitioner guide series

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Manifesto for School Age Childcare

The Scottish Out of School Care Network has published a series of calls

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Families need services that are 'here to stay'

The final report of our CHANGE project sets out how to improve local childcare

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Shetland childcare setting scoops prize

Hame Fae Hame Shetland, funded by the Access to Childcare Fund, has won a major award

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Hope in hard times

Our Manifesto for 2021-26 includes key calls on childcare and the value of play

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Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan

The Access to Childcare fund addresses one of the actions highlighted in Every Child, Every Chance

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Shetland childcare provider wins small business of the year accolade

23 February 2021

A childcare provider supported by the Access to Childcare Fund has won a major business award in recognition of how it responded to the challenges of coronavirus.

Hame Fae Hame, based in Scalloway on the Shetland Islands, won the Times / Lloyds Banking Group Small Business of 2020 Award, beating UK-wide competition.

The centre was rewarded for the creative and robust way it responded to the pandemic, strengthening childcare support for frontline workers and deepening outreach work with the local community.

Manager and owner Kaye Sandison says she and her colleagues “feel privileged and valued” that their work during lockdown has been recognised.

Hame Fae Hame is one of 15 providers awarded grants last year by the Access to Childcare Fund, which is funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Children in Scotland.

“Our Access to Childcare grant has definitely helped to strengthen our out of school staff team, with the appointment of an assistant manager and senior practitioner,” says Kaye.

“It’s also allowed us to make adjustments to our facilities so that we can offer a better, more easily accessed breakfast club and canteen when things are able to open up fully again.”

Kaye feels the pandemic has significantly raised the profile of high quality childcare across Scotland and the UK, with more people realising its fundamental contribution to communities, family life and equality.

Alongside welcoming this shift in societal attitudes, she has high hopes for what the centre can achieve in 2021.

“It will be important to get back to full opening and to refocus on our plans for developing our outdoor spaces, and continuing to work with our ELC and community partners on enhancing our provision,” she says.

“We will also continue to build resilience into our services and develop our staff team and our management capacity. And we look forward to working with Access to Childcare partners to learn from each other on how our various projects are contributing to policy development for the childcare sector!”

Click here to find out more about Hame Fae Hame

Click here to find out more about the Access to Childcare Fund

Hame Fae Hame

Find out more about the award-winning Shetland childcare centre

Click to visit the website

Strengthening access and affordability

The Fund provides grants focusing on priority groups most at risk from poverty

Click to find out more

Families need services that are 'here to stay'

The final report of our CHANGE project sets out how to improve local childcare

Click to find out more

2021-26 Manifesto

Improving childcare for families is a key part of our Manifesto for the next parliament

Click to find out more