2020 Together We Can

Open Letter

Dear Parent/Carer/ Supporter

This letter is written by a passionate group of over 200 Scottish nursery providers, represented by 2020 Together We Can (2020TWC) on behalf of the Private, Voluntary, and Independent sector (PVI) to all parents of pre-school children, their extended families and all those who support the provision of high quality Early Learning & Childcare (ELC) in Scotland.

To be clear, our group explicitly supports the ambitious Government policy of providing extended ELC to all 3 & 4 year olds from 2020 onwards, however we have significant concerns over how this is being done, and the impact this is having on working parents and their children. Our letter allows us to publicly set out our concerns.

Ahead of the universal entitlement launch in 2020, the policy is being rolled out by the 32 Scottish Local Authorities, and is being rolled out 32 different ways. This fractured approach has resulted in a post code lottery of provision with Local Authorities primarily looking to their own requirements ahead of their PVI partners.

Such an approach has led to public money being squandered on new nurseries that are not required, being build or planned, without the policy requirements being addressed. In short, the authorities have not looked to sweat their assets, and buy in provision, (as directed by Scottish Government) they have automatically sought to protect and enhance their own provision (and in some areas directly compete with their PVI partners).

More worryingly for PVI providers, the new enhanced entitlement is being billed as ‘free’ when it is not. Nothing is ‘free’, all provision is met through taxpayer funding, and as the rates paid to PVI do not cover our costs, we are concerned that we are being locked in to contracts that will potentially make our nurseries unsustainable.

We totally understand the attraction of telling families provision, is free, but when the provision is funded below our costs, and Local Authority settings are being funded at a higher rate, we cannot continue to sit back and say nothing. We are calling on the Scottish Government, COSLA and all Local Authorities to level the playing field and to fund all entitled 3 & 4 year olds at the same rate. The money is there, (its already in the funding package). We need Scottish Government to instruct COSLA and their members to unlock the £90m it will take to level the funding playing field.

The reality is that the high quality ELC that every child deserves, costs more to deliver than the funding currently provided by the Local Authority. Indeed the rates we understand we will receive from August 2020, were derived from a review of 2015 costs, which excluded things like compulsory pensions, a requirement to pay staff real living wage and employer national insurance, so are at least £2 per hour below what we require to meet our costs. How is this fair, when Local Authority settings are having their costs met in full. We want to pay our staff more and want to ensure we can retain them rather than lose them to the public sector who are (because of the way the funding is shared) paying significantly more than we can, as the only way we can compete is to increase the costs to the parents of our 3month-3year olds. We are concerned that the 2020 policy locks us out from charging top up fees (to address the funding differentials) or including additional costs for those children accessing their funded entitlement.

In addition, we are required to pay real living wage only to those delivering 1140hrs, which is unjustifiable as being flexible providers of high quality ELC we cannot and should not have a multi tiered workforce, being paid different rates of pay for the same qualifications. We value our staff and want to pay them all equally, and are trying to do so without making the costs of providing ELC uneconomic for our families.

We are calling for honesty, clarity, equity and fairness, to be treated and valued as you and your children deserve. It is only fair that all should be entitled to the same ‘’funded’ rate irrespective of the type of setting they attend.

We are passionate about attracting, training and paying our professional staff in a way that provides the best for our children. The funding rates on offer, in our opinion, will suppresses wages in our sector, making retention even more difficult than it currently is.

We have lost count of the meetings we have had with all the relevant bodies to try and resolve these inequities, and now turn to you the parents and carers to support us in our quest to level the playing field. It seems that both the Government, COSLA and their members do not recognise or appreciate how essential PVI settings are to the fine balance of providing quality ELC to allow working parents to return to work, and to contribute to the Scottish economy.

We do not just provide care for our 3-5 year olds, but to all children regardless of age. Each child in our settings are treated as individuals and from their time with us, obtain the basic building blocks required to make their lives fulfilling, engaging and productive as they grow.

Our parents recognise that our work is linked to brain development, nutrition, health & wellbeing, and risk awareness, as well as leading and supporting your child to become happy confident individuals within their first exciting journey. Our parents also understand this is lead by highly experienced, qualified, capable and enthusiastic professionals. We need Scottish Government, COSLA and their members to recognise these fundamentals as well, and to help us ensure we have complete parity of esteem with our public sector counterparts.

We are asking the Scottish Government, COSLA and their members to recognise and accept that providing high quality ELC has a cost attached to it, and this cost should not be subsidised by parents of the 3month to 3years cohorts.

Our dedicated staff members are worth and have trained to be worth, more than the national living wage. We want to pay them at a level that recognises they are highly skilled professionals caring for and educating our youngest children. The importance of this cannot be underestimated, yet this cannot be achieved unless the Government truly value the private sector.

We wish to avoid the same disaster our colleague’s south of the Border are experiencing, where chronic underfunding has resulted in hundreds of settings and childminders closing. We believe Scotland can be the flagship for delivering the best ELC, however, every child needs to be treated equally, by ensuring parity of funding, and parity of esteem and parity of pay for the professionals charged with delivering this potentially game changing policy, which looks to ensure the poverty and attainment gap for Scotland’s children starts to close.

Please help us ensure our concerns are addressed, and that the PVI sector is not lost, as without sustainable rates of funding from Local Authorities, our establishments will mirror the demise we are seeing in England. The funding exists to fix this. It’s currently within the agreement, we need your support to help unlock this for you and your children. All out futures depend on this.

Please visit our website www.2020together.co.uk to register your support for our concerns.

Yours faithfully

2020 Together We Can