Coronavirus: What is a key worker in Scotland?

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Scotland’s Education Secretary John Swinney has said the children of key workers, such as nurses and police officers, will continue to get “access to appropriate learning and childcare” from their local authority despite the nationwide schools’ closure.

What is a key worker?

The UK government has published a list of key workers whose children can still go to school if they cannot be looked after at home.

These workers' jobs are considered "critical" for the response to the pandemic.

In Scotland, councils have been asked to draw up a list of key workers for their area and ministers have defined this as people who are “in posts which ensure that essential services can be delivered and cover tasks within the local community which support the vulnerable and aid community resilience”.

It has been left to individual Scottish councils to draw up the list to reflect “the diverse range of localities” in the country.

However, it is not expected the list of key workers in Scotland will be radically different to the list published by the UK government.

Mr Swinney said local authorities were best placed to decide on the exact definition "based on local needs, which will obviously differ in island and rural communities to that in our cities".

Are some key workers more critical than others?

The Scottish government has drawn up three categories of workers for councils to consider:

Category 1:

Health and care workers directly supporting the coronavirus response or life-threatening emergency work. Energy suppliers and staff providing childcare or learning for other category one staff are also included.

Category 2:

All other health and care workers, and wider public sector workers providing critical and emergency welfare services. This includes workers in the fire, police and prison services.

Category 3:

All workers without whom there could be a significant impact on Scotland but where the response to coronavirus, or the ability to perform essential tasks to keep the country running, would not be severely compromised.

Does this cover all key workers?

The Scottish government wants parents or carers who can make their own childcare arrangements to do so.

The local authority support is for those who have no alternative arrangements.

The Scottish government guidance says that if one parent is a key worker and the other is not, the non-key worker should normally be expected to provide childcare.

In addition, the Scottish government advice is that parents should not rely for help with childcare from those in the stringent social distancing category, such as grandparents or family members.

The guidance also says provision, where possible, should be made available beyond the school day in partnership with providers of out of school care.

When will my local council publish its list of key workers?

It is expected most local authorities will publish their arrangements for key workers within the next six days.

Will the children of key workers go back to their normal school or nursery?

Not necessarily. Councils may opt to create local hubs for providing childcare where youngsters from all over an area are dropped.

This might be in a school setting, local community facility or utilising registered child-minders.

The headache for local authority officials right now is trying to work out demand and a safe way to organise the provision.