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Swift childcare response pleases OIC

Peter Diamond has thanked the response from parents and carers after a request for information on childcare needs.

Orkney Islands Council (OIC) has thanked parents and carers for their swift response to the request for information on their childcare needs.

Assessing the needs of families is vital to ensure the council can move forward with the development of an appropriate temporary nursery facility while also working on a long-term solution.

At this time, the provision of an interim smaller childcare facility is for the zero to three years age-group. The temporary nursery will not be able to cater for after-school provision.

OIC’s head of education, Peter Diamond, explained: “Our focus at this time is to assess the demand for zero to three years of age only.

“It is unfortunate but we are not currently in a position to be able to offer after-school provision within the temporary facility in a way which meets the requirements of guidance in relation to COVID-19.

“Our existing nurseries will be able to offer hours to parents for three to five year olds.”

Mr Diamond added: “I must extend our thanks to parents and carers for getting in touch with the required information so quickly, and if anyone else would like to indicate that they need childcare for the zero to three age-group then please get in touch as soon as possible via elc@orkney.gov.uk.

“Planning is underway, including discussions with the Care Inspectorate, on how we move ahead with the aim of opening in January.”

Councillors recently 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.

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.

OIC has been able to move forward with the provision of increased funded 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.

Orkney Islands Council’s chair of the education, leisure and housing committee, Councillor Gwenda Shearer, said: “It is vital that we get this right to ensure the best possible start for our youngest members of society.

“I am grateful to those who have got in touch so promptly to enable officers to work on the most suitable facility to meet the demand that has been demonstrated.”