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Parents requiring childcare urged to contact OIC

Orkney Islands Council would like to hear from parents and carers looking for childcare provision – following the go ahead to progress a temporary nursery facility while also working on a long term solution.

Planning is underway, including discussions with the Care Inspectorate, and the local authority has said it is vital that it assesses the needs of families at this time.

OIC’s head of education, Peter Diamond, said: “Following current guidance we will be able to offer a smaller childcare facility for the 0-3 age group in the first instance. Our existing nurseries will be able to offer hours to parents for 3-5 year olds.

“What is not clear at present is the demand for such a facility – the actual numbers of people who would wish to make use of the nursery- and this is what we need to ascertain as quickly as possible before moving forward and taking steps to recruit the necessary staffing numbers.

“We would be looking to open in January and we need to hear from parents and carers first to allow us to shape the facility.”

Councillors at a Full Council meeting earlier agreed to a number of measures to ensure the onward provision of childcare for families in the county – including temporary provision and a new-build facility. There remains the possibility that the private sector decides to move forward with a service.

The closure of the privately-run Peedie Breeks nursery in Kirkwall, combined with the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, and a decline in active registered childminders in Orkney has exacerbated the childcare situation in the county.

The OIC has been able to move forward with the provision of increased free childcare hours in most nursery settings from 600 to 1,140 despite the unparalleled set of challenging circumstances. For any settings that have been unable to do this, parents have been notified what the nursery is able to offer in the meantime.

Mr Diamond said the need for a childcare service may have changed for some.

“In these unprecedented times, with many now working from home for what may be the forseeable future, while others may have reduced their hours to fit in with school patterns, we need to gauge that there is still a demand out there.

“We would ask that parents and carers get in touch with us as a matter of urgency highlighting their requirements.”

Orkney Islands Council’s chairwoman of the Education, Leisure and Housing Committee Councillor Gwenda Shearer added: “This is a fantastic opportunity for parents and carers to help ensure we get the temporary facility just right to fit the actual childcare needs in the county, while being as cost effective as possible for the wider public purse.

“But we cannot do this without the input of families – we need to know exactly what people will require to allow the plans to move forward as quickly as possible. Please get in touch as a matter of urgency.”

Anyone looking to make use of such a service is asked to contact elc@orkney.gov.uk as soon as possible. It would be very helpful if parents could also indicate how many days they would need each week.

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