WEST FIFE childminders could be put out of business if Fife Council fails to include them in the delivery of Early Learning and Childcare.
That’s the message from the Scottish Childminding Association after a growing campaign led by local registered childminders to be included in the latest childcare provision plans.
At present, parents in Scotland are entitled to a guaranteed 600 hours a year of childcare, however, this is due to increase to 1,140 hours by 2020.
Across Scotland, 15 out of the 32 local authorities are already working with childminders as partner providers for eligible two-, three- and four-year-olds but this is not happening in Fife.
Dunfermline childminder Jude Rae is heavily involved in the fight to be included and said their participation would safeguard parental choice for future funded spaces.
She is now hopeful their views will be listened to after she received long-awaited contact from the council last Thursday asking for her input.
“They have said they are wanting to get together with a few Fife childminders and have invited me to come along to some kind of consultation to see about the new procurement process so it is looking a lot more positive,” she explained.
“We have been sending letters to MPs, MSPs, councillors and we are trying to get as much done as we can.
“Why can some councils partner childminders and Fife can’t? The council’s main concern seems to be funding. Our main concern is GIRFEC – Getting It Right for Every Child.
“If the council doesn’t take childminders on, they aren’t getting it right for every child. They are going completely against that.
"A parent knows their child the best and if the council doesn’t go down the route of partnering with childminders, they are taking away that choice for them. A lot of children out there are not suited to six hours a day in a nursery.”
Jude and other childminders from around Dunfermline met local MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville last week and were pleased to receive her backing.
Ms Somerville has now called on Fife Council to embrace childminders.
“This fantastic group of childminders are currently frozen out by Fife Council in the delivery of the 600 hours per year which is already available to parents,” she said.
“The high quality Early Learning and Childcare service they provide should be harnessed by Fife Council immediately. It will only benefit the council with their planning for the expansion to 1,140 hours by 2020.”
The Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA) has been working to ensure professional childminding businesses across the country are protected when the childcare provision increases.
Its chief executive, Maggie Simpson, said childminders were well recognised as delivering quality services which have been inspected by the Care Inspectorate.
“They are in danger of extinction in Fife unless they are included as partner providers to deliver funded ELC, paid for by Fife Council, and their professional services actively promoted to parents.
“My understanding is that Fife Council has said they are working in partnership with us to consider the flexible delivery of 1,140 hours Early Learning and Childcare from 2020.
"I’m not aware of any contact having been made and looking at the latest figures, Fife Council are not actively engaging with childminders in preparation for 2020.”
Fife Council early years learning officer, Jane Mason, said she met with the SCMA earlier this year to confirm their intention to progress plans to engage with childminders.
“We are in the process of finalising our delivery model proposals for 1,140 hours by August 2020 and these will be submitted to the Scottish Government for consideration,” she said.
“A number of models are being considered and I’d like to reiterate the council’s intention to engage with childminders to be part of that flexible framework that delivers learning and childcare in Fife.
“Work is under way to gather information locally to help us consider appropriate partnerships with highly-qualified providers, particularly those qualified to SVQ 3/HNC level in line with our requirements.”