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Your childcare rights: Scotland

Knowing what your legal rights are can help you make sure that you and your child get the support you need. Sometimes, just showing that you’re aware of your rights can quickly nip any problems in the bud.

The Equality Act 2010 is an important law that provides disabled children with a number of rights and protections. All permanently deaf children will meet the definition of disability.

The Equality Act 2010 means that public bodies, including local authorities and childcare providers:

  • can’t discriminate against your child. In other words, a childcare provider can’t refuse to accept your child simply because they are deaf. They also can’t treat your child less favourably than other children by, for example, not allowing them to do certain activities that other children are able to do
  • must make reasonable adjustments
  • promote equality of opportunity for disabled children.

Separately, under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 local authorities must also provide a range and level of services appropriate to disabled children’s needs.

If a child is disadvantaged by something that the setting does, and if there are any simple or inexpensive things that the setting can do to overcome this, they must do it. This is known as making reasonable adjustments.

Examples of reasonable adjustments

  • Making sure there are subtitles on the TV if showing a children’s programme
  • Staff receiving training on how to use a radio aid
  • If the reading corner is in an area with poor acoustics or lighting, moving to somewhere better for your child
  • Providing ‘auxiliary aids’. This includes, for example, radio aids.

Most reasonable adjustments cost little or nothing and are relatively easy to put in place. You have an important role to play in letting the childcare know what steps they can take to support your child.

What is reasonable will depend on their size and financial resources. It may be easier for a local authority or a large nursery to make a reasonable adjustment than it is for a small childminder.

For more information go to The Equality Act and your child's education.

The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 aims to make sure that children with additional support needs get the help that they need.

A child is said to have additional support needs (ASN) if they need extra support in order to benefit from education. The need for extra support can be temporary or ongoing. Deafness is recognised as an example of an ASN.

If the child is aged under three and has a disability such as deafness, the local authority must assess children who have additional support needs, or may have additional support needs as a result of a disability. If an authority identifies that support is required, they have a duty to provide it. This may involve developing an action plan and provision of education support within childcare.

Where the child is aged three or four, the local authority and the nursery/pre-school are expected to work together to ensure that provision is “adequate and efficient” to meet any ASN. This involves working with external specialists, such as Teachers of the Deaf.

If you feel that your child has needs that go beyond what the nursery/pre-school can reasonably provide or are likely to be able to provide, you have the right to ask the local authority to carry out an assessment for a coordinated support plan (CSP). This is a legal document which sets out the support that the local authority must provide.

You have the right to appeal if the local authority refuses to carry out an assessment or to appeal over the contents of a CSP.

Go to Getting additional support: Scotland for more information.

Nurseries, pre-schools and registered childminders should follow the Curriculum for Excellence, which provides a framework for how children’s early learning should develop and has a focus on learning through play and active, experiential learning.

The childcare should work with you to prepare a joint record of your child’s progress.

The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) is the regulatory body which covers early learning and childcare. Any practitioner working with children not yet at primary school must be registered with the SSSC. Any qualified teachers teaching in early learning settings must be registered with the General Teaching Council of Scotland. In terms of child–staff ratios:

If you’re using a nursery, preschool, playgroup or children’s centre and your child is:

  • under two, there should be one member of staff for every three children
  • aged two, it should be one to five
  • aged three, it should be one to eight or ten (depending on the type of childcare).

If you’re using a childminder, they can care for up to six children (under the age of twelve). Of these six children, only three can not yet be attending primary school and no more than one is under the age of one.

More information on the child–staff ratios can be found on the website.

Nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are inspected by the Care Inspectorate who check that they are following the National Care Standards for Early Education and Childcare. These set out 14 standards which include requirements around making sure your child feels welcomed and valued, that their individual needs (including any arising from a disability) are met and that the childcare provides a safe environment.

All childminders providing childcare for more than two hours a day for payment must register with the Care Inspectorate. Nannies do not need to register with the Care Inspectorate but agencies that introduce families to nannies do.

You can read the inspection report for a childcare provider on the Care Inspectorate website.

Education Scotland also inspects nurseries and pre-schools. These inspections focus on how well the childcare is helping children to learn and achieve, and check on the quality of education being provided. Education Scotland don’t currently inspect specialist education services for deaf children.

You may be entitled to receive help with the costs of childcare.

All three to four-year-olds are entitled to 600 hours of free childcare a year (or around 16 hours of free childcare a week during school term).

If your child is two and you are receiving certain benefits (such as income support or Job Seeker’s Allowance), they will also be entitled to 600 hours of free childcare a year.

You need to apply to the local authority for a free childcare place. You can either do this by contacting the local authority directly or via the Parent Club information for your area.

Free childcare is available only from local authority or private nurseries who participate in the Private Childcare Partnership (PCP) scheme or pre-schools. More information on this should be available from your local Childcare/Family Information Service. Local authorities are expected to be flexible in how the childcare is provided in order to meet your needs.

You should also be aware that many specialist education services don’t provide support to deaf children who aren’t in a local authority nursery, a private PCP nursery or pre-school.

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 legislates for the Scottish Government Getting It Right For Every Child approach to delivering children’s services. Under the Act, local authorities must make sure there is enough childcare in the area for three and four-year-olds and some two-year-olds. Local authorities must also consult with representatives of parents of children under five at least every two years on their plans for delivering childcare in the area. They must then publish a plan, which should be available on the local authority website. If it isn’t, you can ask the local authority to send you a copy.

If you have any concerns, try discussing it with the manager of the childcare. In most cases, you should be able to resolve any problems with them directly. Depending on the type of childcare, they may have a complaints policy.

If this doesn’t address your concern or your concern is urgent, you can contact the Care Inspectorate directly.

If your complaint is about the local authority, the final stage for any complaints is the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. You can normally only take a complaint to the Ombudsman once you have exhausted the complaints process for the local authority.

You can also seek advice from your local childcare or family information service or contact our Freephone Helpline.