New Scottish National Standard is the only standard

Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd gave a ministerial statement and answered questions from MSPs in Scottish Parliament regarding Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) expansion yesterday (19 December).Maree Todd MSP

The minister’s statement outlined new elements of the expansion including a healthy meal and opportunity for outdoor play for all children under 1140 hours. 

It was confirmed that this new National Standard , as part of the governments ambitious commitment for 1140 hours, is the only standard that providers must adhere to. This new approach has the full backing of COSLA, with whom NDNA Scotland has agreed principles of working. 

Maree Todd also promised that funding rates across all areas will increase as a result of funding deal, as well as additional funding to cover extra costs for healthy meals. However, when questioned by MSPs, she was unable to answer when funding rates would be available. 

The National Standard assures all parents and carers of children utilising the childcare offer of a high quality experience. With quality at the heart of the government’s new approach, it means flexibility of choice for families. This is a welcome element of the new expansion. 

The rollout of the childcare scheme with new standards will be monitored to assess the impact of this change to make sure there is no detrimental impact on children’s outcomes.

The new standard details that all childcare workers are paid at least the Living Wage. She explained how this is the first step to ensure contracts and agreements reflect fair work principles. When asked about Living Wage by MSPs she explained that the Scottish Government supports and encourages all employers to become Living Wage accredited. 

A new delivery support plan was also released by Scottish Government for Local Authorities to follow.

Alison Harris, Conservative MSP, spoke about how the rollout of the policy is in trouble and it needs better governance. She also questioned why it has taken until now to release a delivery support plan. The minster reassured MSPs that there is strong governance surrounding this policy. She spoke of how the delivery support plan was introduced to support financial sustainability. 

Jane Malcolm, NDNA Scotland’s Policy Manager, said: “In principle the National Standard sets out clear guidance on what providers need to achieve to work in partnership with the local authority to deliver funded childcare. 

“However, there are still a number of serious challenges that need addressing and at present this does not seem to be happening. 

“Funding is still a major issue, with many nurseries facing closure or huge changes to their business models. Funding rates need to meet operational costs, which will be hugely impacted by the Living Wage commitment to all staff delivering the funded hours. Although in reality providers cannot pay only those staff delivering funded hours as this creates a two tier wages system within settings, with the under 3s being cared for by the lowest paid workers. 

“Workforce was also raised as a serious concern. There does not seem to be sufficient numbers of staff coming into the sector that are required, nor any real solution to the migration of staff from the PVI sector to local authorities. 

“Many of the MSPs in the Chamber challenged the Minister on these issues. However, I am not sure how confident they were in the assurances made in response to their questions. 

“The Scottish Government is yet to reassure the PVI sector that these issues will be addressed in time for 2020”.

Watch the full statement and Q&A session here