Access to Childcare Fund Phase 2: Evaluation Report

From: Scottish Government
Published: Fri Oct 06 2023

It aimed to assess the extent to which the Fund's projects contributed to expected outcomes for parents and children, and to synthesise learning and produce recommendations to inform the design of a system of school age childcare for Scotland.


About the Access to Childcare Fund

The Access to Childcare Fund (referred to as ACF or the Fund) was established by the Scottish Government in July 2020 to run and test new models of School Age Childcare (SACC) and ran until February 2023. The Fund was managed by Children in Scotland and an expert advisory group. SACC is care provided to primary school-aged children outside of normal school hours. It includes both regulated childcare and organised children's activities (such as sports clubs) provided by individuals or groups other than schools, and not registered by the Care Inspectorate. The £3 million Fund formed part of the Scottish Government's ambition to build a system of SACC by the end of this Parliament.

This ambition sits within the Scottish Government's wider commitment to tackling child poverty. SACC can contribute to this aim by enabling parents/carers (from hereon in referred to as ‘parents' for brevity) to secure employment or take on further work and/or training, among other benefits for parents and children. The aim of the Fund was to make SACC more accessible, affordable and flexible for parents from low-income families or those at risk of experiencing child poverty (as identified in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. The target groups were: lone parent families; families with a disabled adult or child; larger families (three or more children); minority ethnic families; families with a child under one year old; and families where the mother is under 25 years of age.

The first phase of the Fund enabled 15 organisations to run SACC projects. During the second phase of the Fund (April 2022 to February 2023), the focus of this evaluation, eight of the 15 organisations had their funding continued. Two further projects (The Scottish Childminding Association and Ayr United Football Academy) received funding as part of the second phase and were managed by the Scottish Government. The ten organisations funded in the second phase were: Ayr United Football Academy (AUFA); Clyde Gateway; Hame Fae Hame; Indigo; The Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA); Support, Help and Integration in Perthshire (SHIP); St Mirin's Out of School Care (OSC); Stepping Stones for Families; SupERkids; and The Wee Childcare Company.

Evaluation aims and questions

The Scottish Government commissioned Ipsos to evaluate the second phase of the Fund. There were two main aims of the evaluation:

  • To assess the extent to which the projects contributed to the expected outcomes for the Fund:
    • improving parents' employment, health and wellbeing
    • reducing family costs and increasing family income, and
    • improving children's health, wellbeing and relationships
  • To synthesise learning from the projects and produce recommendations to inform the design of a system of school age childcare for Scotland.

The evaluation covered both process and outcomes, including consideration of how processes of setting up and implementing SACC models supported the outcomes achieved. (See Appendix One for more detailed objectives.)

More specifically, the evaluation aimed to answer the following research questions:

  1. How have the Access to Child Fund projects been delivered in practice?
  2. What has the impact of the projects been for parents, children, and families as a whole (especially those in the target groups)?
  3. What are the key lessons from delivery of the projects for a future system of school age childcare across Scotland?

This evaluation follows on from the evaluation of the first phase of the Fund which was carried out by Children in Scotland. The evaluation of Phase 1 focused on initial processes and early indications of outcomes and found that, although the projects were constrained in their operation by the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges, they delivered a number of benefits. These included positive impacts on health and wellbeing for families, parental employment opportunities, family finances and partnership working. This evaluation aims to build on these findings by exploring how positive outcomes like these have been achieved, and which processes and approaches work well (or less well) for delivering accessible SACC.

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Company: Scottish Government

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