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News: Pilot project to support childminder recruitment launches

Posted 5 April 2022, by Jennifer Drummond. Image supplied by SCMA.

A new partnership project has been launched to support the recruitment and training of more than 100 professional childminders across Scotland.

The Scottish Rural Childminding Partnership pilot is focused on ten areas across Scotland which have been identified as in urgent need of high quality, flexible childcare.

Led by the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA) it aims to support economic and community development through the creation of more than 100 new professional childminding jobs and up to 900 much-needed childcare spaces for families in remote and rural areas.

Graeme McAlister, Chief Executive of the Scottish Childminding Association said:

“Childminding is a vital community asset providing local flexible childcare and family support which is so important in remote and rural communities.

“The pilot is an important step towards addressing the urgent demand for high-quality childcare from parents and carers, recruiting childminders in areas where they are most needed.

“As we emerge from COVID-19 there may be people considering a change of career which supports working from home – this is a fantastic opportunity for those living in these target areas to access a wealth of support in setting up their own sustainable childminding business and to undertake a rewarding new career.”

Benefits across the community

The £170,000 project has partnership funding from South of Scotland Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland.

The pilot is designed to not only offer high-quality early learning and childcare settings for children in the local area, but support parents joining or remaining active in the workforce.

Douglas Cowan, Director of Communities and Place, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said:

“This new initiative will support and extend the provision of a vital service for young families in the target areas, enabling more parents to return to the workforce. It will also provide much-needed opportunities for self-employment and business growth. This is a very welcome win-win that will deliver real benefits to many communities in our region.”

Jane Morrison-Ross, Chief Executive of South of Scotland Enterprise, said:

“Organisations in our towns and villages across the South of Scotland rely on parents and carers being able to source local, high-quality childcare provision. This innovative pilot will provide a valuable opportunity for people from a range of backgrounds to re-train mid-career.  This is a great example of an opportunity for entrepreneurs delivering real value for people and communities.”

Support for new recruits

Those who are accepted onto the programme will be supported by a dedicated member of the SCMA team, through induction training and the registration process to establishing their new business. On completion of the registration with the Care Inspectorate and HMRC, the new childminder will receive a start-up grant to cover initial costs and a unique package of childminding-specific training courses.

Launched at the end of March, the Partnership pilot will be active in Argyll & Bute, Dumfries & Galloway, Highland, Moray, North Ayrshire (Arran and Cumbrae), Orkney, Scottish Borders, Shetland, Stirling and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Click here for more information on the Scottish Rural Childminding Partnership pilot

A black and white headshot of a man wearing a suit jacket, shirt, tie and glasses
A black and white headshot of a man wearing a suit jacket, shirt, tie and glasses

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