Early learning and childcare providers in North Ayrshire have been given a pay increase.

The £215,000 additional investment will help support the delivery of a high-quality early years experience for all children.

The increase was agreed at  North Ayrshire Council’s cabinet on Tuesday and takes effect from April 1.

Since August 2021, all three and four-year-old children and eligible two-year-old children have been entitled to 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare each year. 

NAC currently contract with 15 funded provider nurseries and 66 childminders to deliver ELC entitlement to families across the authority.

Funded providers – those in the private and not-for-profit sector and childminders – enter a contract with NAC which requires them to meet the National Standard for Early Learning and Childcare Providers. 

In return, the council pays an hourly (sustainable) rate for up to a maximum of 1,140 hours per annum for each child in their care.

To deliver this across Scotland, councils work with both council-run services and local partner providers in the private and not-for-profit sectors, including childminders, to ensure there is sufficient capacity to deliver 1,140 hours to all eligible families. 

Last summer, cabinet approved an increase in the sustainable rate which increased the rate from £5.31 per hour to £5.76 per hour for all eligible two-to-five-year-olds. This increase was also backdated to August 2022 with agreement this would be in place until March 31, 2024. 

As a result, it was agreed to increase council’s funded provider sustainable rates to £6.05 per hour for three to five-year-olds and a larger increase to £6.33 for eligible two-year-old children from April 1, 2024, taking into account feedback from partner providers in relation to greater costs for this age group.

Cabinet approved an increase in the hourly rate paid to funded providers in the financial year 2022-23.  This rate increase was paid retrospectively from August 1, 2022 and will be in place until March 31 this year.

Non-financial assistance is also provided by council staff in the form of teacher support, professional learning for staff and management, and quality improvement support to ensure national ELC standards are upheld.

In addition to the hourly rate paid to providers, funded providers receive an additional payment of £3 per meal (or the provision of a meal through the North Ayrshire Council School Meals Service). Childminders receive £2.50 for each meal provided. 

Councillor Shaun Macaulay said: “Our providers are really important to us so I think this is absolutely the right thing to do.

"I know providers are struggling as everybody is so this is about us playing our role in supporting them to make sure they can continue to provide a really good quality service.

“In addition to our own early years centres, our funded providers are crucial in helping to ensure our young people get the best start in life.

"The new rates recognise the increased costs which they face and should help support the continued development of early learning and childcare right throughout North Ayrshire.”

Cabinet will receive a further report in advance of the next annual review of the sustainable rate for funded providers.