Childcare places for the children of key workers “must be kept to an absolute minimum”, the deputy first minister has said.
John Swinney said that parents and employers should only take up the childcare places being offered if they are the “most-critical key workers” who cannot work from home and have no other care options.
The childcare places are being provided by local authorities, third sector and private providers to the most vulnerable children in society and those whose parents are deemed critical to the coronavirus response, including frontline medics and emergency service staff.
Mr Swinney said: “We all have a vitally important role to play in the fight against Covid-19.
“For some that will involve a frontline role in a hospital, but for others, staying at home to care for your children will also help to save lives.
“Where children are unable to safely stay at home, including vulnerable children, local authorities are providing childcare.
“However, only key workers who cannot fulfil their critical functions when they are working remotely from home may qualify for critical childcare provision.
“The number of children taking up these places must be kept to an absolute minimum. The priority must be for children of the most critical key workers and for the most vulnerable children in our society.
“I would urge employers to look at the guidance and consider if there is any way they can provide their essential services in a way that enables children to stay at home.”
The plea was echoed by Cosla, the local authorities representative body, whose president Alison Evison said: “We recognise the extreme pressures faced by all businesses and employers at this very difficult time.
“Our priority is to ensure that vital services continue as far as possible.
“Local authorities have worked tirelessly to ensure that there is provision available for the children of key workers in an extremely tight timescale.
“However, our capacity to do so needs to be established in line with public health advice.
“The safety of our children, young people and staff is paramount.
“This guidance is aimed at making sure we all work together to get through this crisis while trying to minimise the impact on our society and economy.”