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Saturday, July 20, 2024

McArthur Highlights Childcare Shortages in Orkney

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Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has today highlighted the difficulties faced by parents in Orkney in accessing childcare.

At Education Questions in parliament this afternoon, Mr McArthur urged the Scottish Government to do more to fulfil its promises to rural and island communities when it comes to funded childcare.

Despite a Scottish Government commitment to providing 1,140 hours of free childcare to parents and carers in Scotland, island authorities such as Orkney have experienced particular challenges in delivering this in ways that are accessible.

Mr McArthur shared how constituents had contacted him “in desperation” about the lack of available childcare in Orkney, and sought the Scottish Government’s support in delivering on the flexible and affordable childcare it has promised.

In response, Minister for Children, Natalie Don, recognised the distinct challenges faced by rural and island communities in delivering childcare, agreed to look at what more could be done to support Orkney Islands Council and offered to meet with Orkney’s MSP to discuss the issue in more detail. 

Speaking after the exchange, Orkney’s MSP said:

“Recent increases in government funded childcare are welcome, but only if it can be accessed in practice.

“I know from the many constituents who have been in touch recently that too often this is simply not possible.

“Whether it’s a lack of childminders, the absence of wraparound care for school age children or difficulties in finding nursery provision offering extended hours or support outside term time, this is an issue that has become a serious problem for more and more parents, carers and indeed employers in Orkney. 

“Indeed, the Minister herself rightly acknowledged the impact this situation is having on efforts to attract and retain population in rural and island areas.

“That is very much the message I am getting from those who have contacted me in desperation over recent months. 

“The Minister was also right to acknowledge the specific challenges facing island authorities in delivering on the government’s commitment.

“I welcome her willingness to work with Orkney Islands Council to see what more can be done to provide the support needed.

“I also plan to take up her offer of a meeting to discuss these concerns in more detail.

“There is no single solution to creating more capacity and flexibility in the childcare available locally.

“The model will also look different in Orkney to other parts of the country.

“However, the Scottish Government has a responsibility to make sure local authorities have the means to actually deliver on the promises made by Ministers.”

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