NURSERIES and other childcare providers will “likely” recruit new staff from other parts of the care sector as the industry expands in a bid to meet a flagship Scottish Government target, a new report has warned.

Ministers are committed to increasing the number of hours of free childcare eligible youngsters receive from the current total of 600 to 1140 by the end of this parliament.

But the Care Inspectorate has warned the expansion of staff working in early years needed to achieve this could impact on other parts of the care sector.

While it said the childcare industry had “coped well” with the increase to 600 hours of funded care for all children aged three and four, as well as vulnerable two-year-olds, daycare services were increasingly struggling to fill vacancies – with the number finding it difficult to do this rising from 30 per cent in 2014 to 35 per cent.

The early learning and childcare (ELC) sector employs 39,030 staff, including childminders and staff in local authority and private nurseries. But a “major expansion” of this will be required to provide the increased number of hours.

The Care Inspectorate said: “We recognise expansion of the ELC workforce will likely draw on sections of the population who are also being recruited to work in other parts of the social care workforce.

“It is therefore important for national and local workforce planning strategies to take account of this, ensuring there is an overall increase in the ELC and wider social-care workforce rather than increased competition for ... potential recruits.”

As part of the expansion of free childcare, ministers have suggested more childminders could become involved in providing funded hours.

Childminders make up 14 per cent of the early learning and childcare workforce, with 5570 people working in this area, but “only a small number of childminding settings” currently provide funded places.

The report added: “Not all childminders want to enter into partnership to provide early learning and childcare as they consider there could be an increase in the inspection of their settings.”

The Care Inspectorate also said its figures showed a fall of 148 in the number of childminders in Scotland in 2015.

Karen Reid, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate said high-quality early learning and childcare enables children to have the best start in life and prepares them for their learning journey throughout school and beyond.

She added: “Early learning and childcare can play a key role in reducing the poverty-related attainment gap. Our inspections show that most early learning and childcare services perform well and help deliver good outcomes for children which support them grow into confident learners.

“We are pleased to note in this report the positive impact that good-quality early learning and childcare can have on children, their families, and their communities.”

She added: “Our evidence suggests there is scope for local authorities to further and better involve the voluntary and private sector in the specialist provision needed to support eligible two-year-olds, some of whom have complex needs.

“Childminders provide small-group, family-based settings which are beneficial for some children, and so there is scope to involve them in supporting expansion further.”

Childcare Minister Mark McDonald said: “The expansion of high-quality early learning and childcare is not only good news for children and families but will also provide thousands of new jobs.

“Our expansion action plan sets out 31 steps to support delivery, including actions to ensure the workforce has appropriate skills and we attract high calibre candidates.

“We are increasing the number of early years Modern Apprenticeships by 10 per cent year on year and investing £1.5 million to increase the number of university places to help meet our commitment that nurseries in the most deprived areas will have an additional teacher or early years graduate by 2018.

“Taken alongside the wider plan, this makes this expansion the most significant increase in childcare ever. It is therefore encouraging to see this report from the Care Inspectorate shows a greater proportion of day care of children services now offer funded early learning and childcare, and quality of provision is generally higher in funded settings.”