General Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament am ar 20 Mehefin 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Evelyn Tweed Evelyn Tweed Scottish National Party

To ask the Scottish Government what steps it has taken to improve access to childminders. (S6O-03613)

Photo of Natalie Don Natalie Don Scottish National Party

Childminders are a hugely valued part of the early learning and childcare profession in Scotland, and we want more families to be able to access the unique benefits that they can offer.

We have been working hard with the Scottish Childminding Association on a new approach for the sector, and I am pleased to confirm that a three-year programme of childminder recruitment and retention was launched on 5 June. Backed by more than £1 million in Scottish Government funding, the programme for Scotland’s childminding future will be available in at least 16 local authority areas during its first year.

The programme will involve the SCMA in scaling up its already successful pilots, which include a £750 start-up grant and tailored support for new childminders, as well as more practical assistance for the existing workforce.

Photo of Evelyn Tweed Evelyn Tweed Scottish National Party

Childminders provide a vital service but often work alone. How will the Government ensure that childminders are supported and that childminding can be a sustainable career?

Photo of Natalie Don Natalie Don Scottish National Party

Evelyn Tweed is correct that, often, childminders run a business on their own, so it is important that they feel both supported and connected to others in the profession. The SCMA’s new programme will implement a range of further measures to help childminders with their workload and professional development, building on the diverse range of support that the association already provides. That will include more practical assistance to existing childminders; the piloting of a new mentoring scheme, which aims to reduce workplace isolation and create networks of support; and a trial of funded time off the floor, which will test models of funded time for childminders to undertake professional learning and networking activities.

From the feedback and engagement that I have had, I believe that those actions will help to ensure that childminding remains a valued, sustainable and fulfilling career choice.

Photo of Roz McCall Roz McCall Ceidwadwyr

A few weeks ago, the Scottish Government announced plans to increase Scotland’s childminding workforce by 1,000. However, Scotland lost more than 2,500 childminders between 2012 and 2022. Does the minister accept that the plans do not really go far enough? How does the Government intend to replace 1,500 childminders as well as retain the current workforce, to fulfil the 1,140 hours of childcare flexibilities that were promised to Scottish parents?

Photo of Natalie Don Natalie Don Scottish National Party

The pilot is a really positive start. However, we know that we have more to do. As I previously said, childminders are a hugely valued part of our childcare sector, so we want them to feel valued and safe in their roles. The pilot will have valuable learning; we will see how successful it is—I am very positive about that; then we will take further actions, based on that learning.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Llafur

Childminders are hugely valuable in our child services. What figure does the minister hope to get to for the childminding community by 2026-27, given that it is currently at 3,225 and, as previously stated, it was at 6,200 back in December 2012? What is the minister’s target?

Photo of Natalie Don Natalie Don Scottish National Party

We aim to increase the sector by 1,000 childminders. In the first year of our programme, the SCMA aims to recruit 250 new childminders. As I have said, that is a really positive start, with big aims. Childminders are a hugely valued part of our sector and I am very positive about the campaign and the pilot, and what those will bring for the sector.