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10,000 fewer childminding spaces in five years as profession suffers decline

The decline of childminding places in Scotland has increased in recent years (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
The decline of childminding places in Scotland has increased in recent years (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Childminding places in Scotland have fallen by more than 10,000 in five years as charity bosses call for an immediate national response from the Scottish Government.

Official statistics published by the care inspectorate show that Scotland’s childminding workforce has decline by 30% in the five years up to December 2021.

Some 1,671 childminding businesses have been lost, resulting in 10,310 fewer places for families in Scotland, according to the early learning and childcare statistics.

And the decline is accelerating, with a 9% decline experienced in the last year alone, with a loss of 397 childminding businesses and more than 2,500 places for families.

Graeme McAlister, chief executive of the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA) has said the figures make “grim reading” as the reduction in businesses means a direct loss of high-quality childcare places.

The charity believe the childminding spaces lost will be even higher in the nine months since December 2021.

The workforce decline comes during the expansion of the Scottish Government’s provision of funded early learning and childcare (ELC) for eligible two, three and four-year-olds.

Mr McAlister said the implementation has had a devastating effect on the childminding workforce.

The organisation advised the Scottish Government of the urgent need for a national childminder recruitment campaign in 2019 – however, the recommendation was not accepted.

Mr McAlister said: “Acute shortages of childminding are being reported around the country as demand from parents and carers considerably exceeds supply for this unique, high-quality, flexible form of childcare and family support delivered in a home setting.

“The decline in the workforce is accelerating and the loss of much-needed childminding businesses and childminding places for working families cannot be sustained.

“The situation is now critical and demands an immediate national response tackling the issues adversely affecting both recruitment and retention.”

The charity are now urging the Scottish Government to expand a piloted recruitment drive for childminders in remote and rural areas to all over Scotland.

The Scottish Rural Childminding Partnership (SRCP) aims to recruit 100 childminders in rural local authorities where the lack of spaces is even more pronounced.

Mr McAlister added: “SCMA is solutions-focused and has led the way in partnership with others in piloting a supported method of recruiting new childminders into the sector in remote and rural areas.

“While still a pilot, ongoing progress is very promising and it is clear that this needs to be scaled up, extended and resources across the whole of Scotland as a national priority.”

The organisation also gave evidence at parliamentary committees before the summer recess where the issue of increased bureaucracy and paperwork was impacted childminders, causing them to leave the profession.

Willie Rennie, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, said the figures were “troubling”.

He said: “These services can be truly transformative for parents and kids but if services are not available locally at hours that fit around people’s busy lives, then they are no service at all.

“The expansion of early learning and childcare was supposed to give parents choice. I don’t think that ‘take it or leave it’ is much of a choice.

“The Scottish Government need to increase the rates that are paid to private and third s sector childcare providers to match those in council settings. This would help to turn the tide on providers fleeing the industry.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Through our ELC expansion, parents and carers can choose to access their child’s funded ELC hours in any provider that meets the criteria – whether a childminder, private or third sector setting, or a service run by a local authority.

“We want to encourage more people into childminding, and to see new childminding services developing in areas that don’t currently have access to this unique form of early learning and childcare.

“We are working with the Scottish Childminding Association and other partners in the sector and local government to better understand the needs of childminders and to address the decline in the childminding workforce – a trend that is mirrored elsewhere in the UK.”